Fort Wayne 3rd grader brings ‘buddy benches’ to school

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – There have been times Samantha Vance has needed a friend. She found her friends but wants to make sure no one else ever feels the way she did.

The Haley Elementary School third grader is behind the buddy benches that will be installed at the school. When a student is lonely, he or she can sit on the bench to let others know they need a playmate.

Vance said she first saw the benches this summer at vacation Bible school and immediately set up a meeting with her principal to get them at the school.

Each bench is made from 400 pounds of recycled plastic bottle caps and lids. Vance has been collecting the caps for months. An Evansville company made the unique benches. There was a monetary fee, too, but all that was raised through donations.

Samantha and her mom, Heidi Vance, said a lot of people pitched in: friends, family, local businesses and even the TinCaps. Heidi thought it would take a year to raise all that was needed, but Samantha got it done in two months.

“I’m so proud of her,” Heidi said. “I can’t believe in less than three months we’ve collected over 1,200 pounds of caps. She wanted to make the appointment with the principal, pitched this idea and he rallied behind it, and the community rallied behind it. We’re so thankful. This can benefit the kids for years to come.”

An open house to celebrate the benches will take place Thursday from 5-7 p.m. at Haley Elementary on Maplecrest Road.