FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Sammie Vance is known for spreading kindness and sharing smiles through her Buddy Bench Project.

The ninth grader at Snider High School started Sammie’s Buddy Bench Project when she was in elementary school, and her efforts took off from there. Friday, she was recognized as the recipient of the “See the Girl 2023 Founder’s Award“, which aims to value girls’ voices and efforts to change the world around them.

It was a full-circle moment as Stephanie Crandall- who nominated Sammie for the award- told her the news along with Dr. Lawanda Ravoira, the creator of the award, as they visited the very first buddy bench Sammie organized at Haley Elementary School.

The award will be formally announced at the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center’s 10th Year Anniversary Gala planned for Nov. 9.

“Sammie embodies the motto “See the Girl”. She has created a safe space for connecting with others, a space where everyone feels important, and no one feels alone or invisible. Sammie’s is an inspiring role model and her commitment to making a difference is a powerful message to the world.”

Dr. Lawanda Ravoira

Sammie’s Buddy Bench Project collects recycled caps that are turned into benches and placed around schools, parks and other areas to help people make friends and not feel lonely. Sammie has been recognized around the country and worldwide through TIME, People, and many other accolades. She was even featured in Disney’s Christmas Day Parade in 2022.

On top of that, she’s a published author with a book titled “Inspire the World: A Kid’s Journey to Making A Difference”. You can also listen to her conversations with other changemakers on the Sammie Smiles podcast.

Visit the website for Sammie’s Buddy Bench Project to learn more.