Young girl creates benches aimed at helping build friendships

NOW: Young girl creates benches aimed at helping build friendships

MISHAWAKA, IN-- How often do you choose to sit on a bench? Let alone talk to someone sitting near you?

“A buddy bench is a place where if someone is lonely, they can sit on the buddy bench, and another person can come up to them ask them to play and they can play together. And you can make friends that way," said Sammie Vance the creator of Sammie's Buddy Benches.

Right there, you heard from 11-year-old, Sammie Vance, describing her own personal project called Buddy Benches.

The concept is a simple one.

Sit, talk, and walk away with a new friend.

“I heard about the buddy bench from a summer camp. And I thought it was a great idea! My school needed it, I needed it," said Sammie.

Because growing up, taking that first step to meet new friends can be hard enough, then even more so when dealing with a pandemic.

“Especially going into this new environment with COVID, schools that are opening, there are going to be a lot of lonely kids at the playground especially if they are in their smaller classes or clusters and it’s even more important to be a friend," said Sammie's mom, Heidi Vance.

So quickly Sammie got to work: getting her school and community on board.

“I got the word out and asked the community to help and within 2 months we got 3 buddy benches," said Sammie.

After receiving so much support--Sammie wanted to do and make more--including figuring out how to create the benches in an eco-friendly way.

“We did it in a unique way, collecting recycled bottle caps and lids to make them. So it helps the environment and lonely kids," said Sammie.

Not to mention, “Regular metal benches are expensive," said Sammie.

Now, three years and thousands of plastic pounds later, Sammie has taken her mission for inclusivity and friendship nationwide!

In a partnership with Walgreens, all 150 Walgreens stores across Indiana collected 15,000 pounds of caps, that then, turned into 75 benches spread across the hoosier state.

“75 went to Indiana and then there are some all around the United States. California, Washington, Florida," said Sammie.

You might have even enjoyed sitting on one of the Buddy Benches before!

There are 4 throughout Mishawaka, where Sammie's dad grew up.

You can find them at Twin Branch, Beiger, LaSalle, and Liberty Elementary schools!

Sammie's mom Heidi, is so grateful for all the opportunities and growth it's provided her once timid daughter.

“Oh I couldn’t be more proud. It’s been fun to watch her grow and she’s got such a big heart and just wants to spread kindness," said Heidi.

Sammie says she plans to keep growing and bringing Buddy Benches around the world.

“I actually have met so many people through this whole things and it’s so awesome. I’ve learned how to speak more yeah better to groups and … public speaking and cause I used to be really really shy and I think I’ve turned that around a little bit," said Sammie.

But no matter where the benches go, the mission is always the same.

“Small things can change the world. It starts with one cap if you want to do something like the Buddy Bench," said Sammie.

In September, Sammie won the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes which awarded her adn 25 other young leaders across the United States $10,000 to put toward her project or college expenses.

If you are interested in learning more about the Buddy Bench mission, how to bring them to a school or park near you, or how to get involved in collecting plastic caps--you can visit and reach out to the team on:

- Their website: https://sammiesbuddybenchproject.com/

-Twitter: @SammieBenches

-Instagram: sammiesbuddybenchproject

-Facebook: Sammie's Buddy Bench Project

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