13-Year-Old Spreads Smiles, Encourages Kindness + Friendship

May 31, 2022

Sammie Vance is 13 years old on a mission to spread kindness and to make the world a less lonely place starting with making sure all kids have a friend. She has gained worldwide attention through her Sammie’s Buddy Bench Project where she collected plastic caps and lids and had them recycled into buddy benches for her school and all around the country. It has impacted and inspired many from kids to adults.

She published her first book “Inspire the World: A Kid’s Journey to Making a Difference” August 2021. She has won multiple awards for her activism. Sammie also does a weekly podcast called Sammie Smiles.

Most recent she was one of the Top 20 Finalists for Kid of the Year, named one of People’s Magazine’s Girls Changing the World, featured on Reading Rainbow LIVE and an “Inspiring Kid” on Nightly News with Lester Holt.

You can find out more about her various kindness initiatives at www.sammiesbuddybenchproject.com

Pledge to Take Action

(Sammie sits on one of her Buddy Benches/ Courtesy of Sammie + Heidi Vance)

From a young age, I realized part of what this world has in store for us. Of course, there is good and evil, but it is our job as humans to bring the good out in everything and everyone. Now some things we decide to do are subconscious, but have just as big of an impact. When I was in second grade, I helped a friend learn English when she only spoke Spanish. Or maybe it’s the simple act of holding the door open for someone, or even just smiling at a stranger.

Other acts become more noticed in this world.

When I was going into third grade, I started Sammie’s Buddy Bench Project. I started this initiative to help anyone who may be lonely or in need of a friend. It is a signal for people to know that if someone is sitting on the bench, they are simply wanting someone to talk to. This initiative has carried on for almost five years now, and I have gotten around 250 buddy benches made out of recycled plastic caps and lids all across the world! But it’s important to know I did NOT start Sammie’s Buddy Bench Project in hopes to get recognized on national news or to get awards. I didn’t even see that in my future at the age of eight. I started my initiative to bring out more good in the world.

(Courtesy of Sammie + Heidi Vance)

A few years ago – at the start of the pandemic – I started Sending Smiles. This is where I would send an encouraging letter to someone every day, along with a laminated smile. I did this in hopes to make everyone smile – with the power of another smile. I have sent them out to teachers, schools, veterans, friends, and with requests. I sent them out once a day for about a year, and now, though not as much, still send them out pretty frequently. I was able to get a bunch of people to help me on Giving Tuesday, and we spread over 4,000 encouraging notes
and smiles in one day!

(Sammie hosts her podcast show “Sammie Smiles” / Courtesy of Sammie + Heidi Vance)

Another way I have been able to “speak” smiles is through my podcast. I started Sammie Smiles over a year ago with the goal of making other people smile through what and who makes me smile. I interview people who inspire me and put them up weekly every Monday. Less than a year ago, when I was 12, I got to publish my own book “Inspire the World: A Kids Journey To Making A Difference.” My book is about my journey with the buddy benches and also how others can make a difference no matter what. I published this in hopes to spread kindness by teaching others how to as well.

(Sammie holds her book “Inspire the World” / Courtesy of Sammie + Heidi Vance)

Throughout all of my kindness initiatives, I have learned all of a few things. All acts of kindness, whether big or small, can have a huge impact on someone’s life. You don’t need to have an organization to make a difference in today’s world. I have also learned to be more kind to others and myself.

With that, I encourage you to go out today and show a small act of kindness to someone, because it may not be so small to them.

Pledge to Take Action

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