Towards the end of summer in 2017 Sammie attended a local VBS (vacation Bible School) where she heard about the idea of the buddy bench. 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” She doesn’t want anyone to feel alone and at times would have used it herself. Also a place for new kids to sit and those feeling left out or wanting to make a new friend.
She came home that evening and told her mom her school needed a buddy bench! She made an appointment with the principle to ask if they could get one. Her mom had heard of a company GreenTree Plastics in Evansville, IN that turned recycled plastic caps and lids into benches. Sammie liked that idea of recycling and decided that would be a great way to get the community involved and would also cost a lot less than a new bench. (new bench $900. Recycled bench $250) When she met with the principle with her idea and how to get it he was excited about it and approved her initiative. Sammie made a comic explaining the buddy bench and her mom posted on facebook a video of Sammie talking about wanting a buddy bench for her school and asking others to help her save plastic caps and lids. It got shared a lot! Sammie’s Buddy Bench Project page was created on facebook for people to follow along on the journey. Sammie talked to the PTA, the student body to get them excited about the project.
Her dream was a 6ft bench with back for each of the two playgrounds. 400 lbs of plastic caps and lids which equals about 10 (55 gal drums) were needed for 1 bench.
She also went and asked local pharmacies and businesses to help her save caps. The local ball team the Tincaps even made announcements at a few of their games! Vera Bradley helped collect as well.
She was 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! People contacted saying they were bullied as a kid and loved this idea and others that heard Sammie’s sweet voice talking about it and had bags of caps they had saved and wanted to donate to her project!
At Fort 4 Fitness ( a big marathon here in her town)she and some friends collected caps at the finish line! Sammie was leading and involved in whole process from initiating it to collecting caps to sorting and then making the long trip to pick up the benches!
Another fun thing she did was get a cap sent from all 50 states!! Sammie has also received caps from Africa, Israel, Germany and the Netherlands!! She got many wonderful letters from people that loved what she was doing! Even letters from a family in Alaska!
Within 2 months we received over 1,200 lbs of caps!!!!! By the time we brought the caps down to company to pick up our benches we had collected over 1,600 lbs! We were able to get 3 benches for the school as well as help out 3 other area schools wanting to get buddy benches at their schools after hearing about Sammie’s project!!
Sammie would love to see Buddy Benches on every playground!
We are so grateful for all the support! The benches are now on the playground being used to help no one feel lonely! One of the benches is engraved “Sammie’s Buddy Bench” which was a surprise to Sammie!
The Mayor came to see the benches and gave her a Certificate of Excellence! We love seeing the idea spread!
Recently she was a guest on the Today Show where Walgreen’s announced all 150 Indiana Walgreen’s stores would collect their stock caps for her all summer! They collected 15,000 lbs! Enough for 75 Buddy Benches that were spread through Indiana!
The project continues to grow as more people are collecting caps and wanting to do this in their own community all over the country and world.
Collecting enough plastic caps and lids for 3 Buddy Benches in 2 months
Getting a cap from every US State
Certificate of Excellence from the Mayor in Fort Wayne
Multiple viral videos on social media with over 40 million views
Guest on the Today Show with Kathie Lee’s “Everybody Has A Story”
Gave away 75 Buddy Benches around Indiana with Walgreen’s help
Selected by BTV to be featured in their anti bullying campaign
Selected by Sodexo for their Performance Zone Campaign
UPS Wishes Delivered Campaign helped 13 groups in 12 states get buddy benches