Finding A Friend On A “Buddy Bench”

by Ugne Papievyte, European Social Entrepreneurship and Innovative Studies Institute

It all started with a drawing. A 9 year old girl Sammie Vance from Fort Wayne, Indiana, a year ago drew a comic about loneliness during the breaks between classes. In the picture there were a bench and two kids meeting each other on it. She heard about an idea of a “buddy bench” in her local vacation Bible School and wanted it to come true in her school. In her words, “if someone is lonely they can go sit on the bench and others know to go up and ask them to play”.

CC BY 4.0 DOIT, http://DOIT-Europe.Net , H2020–770063 Photo credits: Heidi Vance

One evening Sammie came home to her mother, Heidi Vance, and told that she want to make a “buddy bench“. The thing is that these benches are not like usual ones, they are made from recycled bottle cups. Sammie‘s mom heard about the company in Evansville that turned recycled plastic caps and lids into benches. What a great way for the community to be involved also! In comparison, new bench costs about $900 and the recycled one $250. Sammie’s dream was a 6 ft. bench with back for each of the two playgrounds. For one to be made, 400 lbs. of plastic caps and lids are required.

Sammie presented her idea to the director of the school and received a lot of support. She also talked to the PTA, the student body to get them excited about the project. Sammie also went and asked local pharmacies and businesses to help her save caps. The ball team here “The Tincaps” even made announcements at a few of their games! Both Sammie and her mom were contacted by a news channel that ended up doing 3 segments on the project and the paper covered it a few different times. Each time more connections were made!

CC BY 4.0 DOIT, http://DOIT-Europe.Net , H2020–770063 Photo credits: Heidi Vance

What is more, Sammie received caps from all 50 states! Even from Africa, Israel, Germany and the Netherlands! She received a lot of letters with support and appreciation in what she is doing, even from a family in Alaska!

After two months Sammie already received over 1,200 lbs. of caps. By the time caps were brought to recycling company to make the benches, in total about 1,600 lbs. of caps were collected. At that time they were able to make 3 “buddy benches” and to help out 3 other school, which also wanted to make them. When time passed on, 5 more schools joined in collecting bottle cups. Sammie’s wish is to see “buddy benches” is every playground.

CC BY 4.0 DOIT, http://DOIT-Europe.Net , H2020–770063 Photo credits: Heidi Vance

Now benches are already in her school’s playground, inviting all of it kids to make friends there. Even the city major came to see them and Sammie received a Certificate of Excellence! Her mom, Heidi Vance, is the biggest supporter of her daughter. The way she tells a story, with a lot of excitement and proud: “for an 8 year old who just turned 9, I am so proud and impressed with how she has handled everything with humble grace“. That‘s how you can make your dreams come true, with a lots of support from the loved ones!

CC BY 4.0 DOIT, http://DOIT-Europe.Net , H2020–770063 Photo credits: Heidi Vance
CC BY 4.0 DOIT, http://DOIT-Europe.Net , H2020–770063 Photo credits: Heidi Vance

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p.s. Do you know a child from 6 to 16 years who has developed a social innovation using maker facilities? Maybe you are working on a project with kids or you know a committed person in a makerspace? Contact us, if you want to share your own story! →https://www.facebook.com/DOIT.Europe.Net/

“Entrepreneurial skills for young social innovators in an open digital world DOIT Europe” project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement №770063