This Kindhearted Girl Inspires Friendship

Turning bottle caps into buddy benches.

Nov 25, 2021
Special Collections: INSPIRE THE GOOD
This Kindhearted Girl Inspires Friendship | Turning bottle caps into buddy benches.

Sammie Vance is one extraordinary kid. She was just named one of PEOPLE’s Girls Changing the World in 2021, and she is only 12 years old.

The seventh grader from Indiana is collecting bottle caps to upcycle them into benches for her school and neighborhood parks. But these benches are more than just for sitting, they’re to help kids find friends.

Sammie learned about buddy benches at a Bible camp she attended one summer, according to MSN. At the camp there were benches set up for when a child felt lonely; they would sit down signaling to other kids that they are in need of a friend.  

She loved the idea and told MSN, “I'm like, ‘This would be really cool to have at my school.’” Then she sprang into action by initiating a meeting with her principal and the Parent Teachers Association to present her idea.

Sammie used a comic strip that she created showing how a simple bench could help classmates understand when one of their own needed a friend. The adults were surely impressed by her initiative but were also impressed with how she planned on implementing the benches. 

That’s because Sammie and her mom Heidi found a company called Green Tree Plastics that turns recycled plastic caps and lids into benches. These recycled benches cost much less than regular park benches and are good for the environment according to Sammie’s website

Then, she got to work and held a community wide event asking members to bring their old bottle caps. The event alone collected 1,600 pounds (725 kilograms) of caps and with that, she created three buddy benches for her school. 

Sammie continued her efforts and expanded her project to collect more benches for other schools. Now officially called Sammie’s Buddy Bench Project, she made a Facebook page and has an online presence for others to follow her journey and make bottle cap donations.

According to MSN, Sammie is motivated the most by how much her small project has impacted people around the world, and she has even received bottle caps from Germany, Australia, and Israel

Today, Sammie has helped install 200 recycled benches in schools and neighborhoods and she has no plans of stopping. She says in a YouTube interview with 60 Second Docs that even adults can use a buddy bench, because people at any age can feel lonely.

“For me, it's seeing people who need a friend, [because] I've been lonely myself. I don't want others to feel that way,” she told PEOPLE.

This inspirational girl also produces a podcast called Sammie Smiles, where she interviews guests of all ages via zoom who inspire her and she also recently published a book, Inspire the World: A Kid's Journey to Making a Difference, about her story in hopes to encourage other kids to give back.

Sammie knows first-hand that a young age has no limitations to impacting the world. “I just look forward to making a difference,” she said, “and inspiring other people to make a difference.”

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Yael has a passion for research and discovery and devoted her studies to science. She is fascinated by anything technology related and how it can improve people’s lives. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, swimming and storytelling.
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