Famous actress applauds Fort Wayne third grader

Local News

When Reese Witherspoon is tweeting about you, you know your message is reaching all corners of the country. A buddy bench is for a child who is feeling lonely and shy to sit on, so other students know they’re looking for a friend.

Last year Sammie Vance learned about the idea, and wanted to bring it to her school, Haley Elementary, in Fort Wayne. Since, she’s been recognized for her good deed.

“A person said ‘Americans vote Sammie for President,'” Sammie said.

“The Buddy Bench concept is not new, but the way she’s put a spin on it by coming up with a comic and doing it green, recycling, which everybody can do,” Sammie’s mom, Heidi Vance, said. “It has everybody excited.”

In August, Sammie created a comic about buddy benches, which she wished she had had when she’s felt lonely. By the end of the year she collected 1,200 pounds of bottle caps that an Evansville company turned into three buddy benches for her school.

“People are really liking them,” Sammie said. “They’re sitting on them, and people are coming up and playing with them.”

Last month USA Today picked up the story, and popular online publications Upworthy and Now This have also featured Sammie.

Actress Reese Witherspoon retweeted the Now This story, and said “I think adults need Buddy Benches too! Love this.”

Sammie didn’t immediately know who Witherspoon was, but when she was told she was the voice of the singing pig ‘Rosita’ from the movie Sing she got pretty excited.

The family is getting calls nearly every day. Usually it’s someone either wanting to share Sammie’s story or asking for tips about getting their own buddy benches. Sammie’s taking it all in stride.

“She’s handled it with such humble grace,” Heidi said.

Eight other Fort Wayne schools are now in the stages of creating their own buddy benches. 

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