Tired of Seeing Kids Left Out and Lonely, Young Girl Creates ‘Buddy Benches’ at School
When 9-year-old Sammie Vance — a student at Haley Elementary School in Fort Wayne, Indiana — decided that she was tired of seeing kids being left out, she came up with a plan and did something about it. In an effort to promote inclusion, she brought Buddy Benches to Haley Elementary.
Vance first learned about Buddy Benches at summer camp, and their purpose is as ingenious as it is simple. When a child feels lonely, he or she can sit on the bench. This sends a cue to other children, who will then ask that child to play with them. (Talking about loneliness, especially at a young age, can be incredibly challenging, so this helps make communication far easier and more comfortable.)
Vance put together a comic book explaining what Buddy Benches are and presented it to her principal. He was expectedly thrilled about the concept, and the process of getting Buddy Benches into Haley Elementary began. Vance’s mom, Heidi, found a place to make benches out of recycled bottled caps and subsequently launched bottle cap drives. Once the message was out there, support flooded in. Heidi and Sammie amassed more than 1,200 pounds of caps, and were able to get one from every single state! With a full arsenal of caps, three Buddy Benches were constructed on school grounds.
In the aftermath, Vance was recognized for the wonderful impact she made on the community. One of the school’s benches was named after her, and Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry presented the girl with a Certificate of Excellence.
In the video below, check out clips of Vance and footage of her sitting on her very own Buddy Bench for the first time.