sammies buddy bench project

This is just one of her many projects

When Sammie Vance first approached her principal at Haley Elementary with the idea of installing “buddy benches” into her school playground, the concept was simple: help others feel less lonely.

Little did she know that it would not only accomplish that goal, but evolve into something so much bigger.

After first hearing about buddy benches (where a child can go sit to signal “hey, I’d like someone to play with”), Sammie was immediately inspired. What a great way to make sure no one feels alone.

The good news? Her principal loved the idea. The not-so-good news: benches are expensive. Just one would cost nearly a thousand dollars.

However, a bench made of recycled bottle caps … that would only be around $250.

So Sammie reached out to others in her community in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to collect enough caps (around 400 lb) to make one bench. Eventually her goal went beyond Indiana, as she tried to get bottle caps from all 50 states.

And thus, the initiative of “Sammie’s Buddy Bench Project” was born.


Folks were so ready to rally behind her cause that not only was Sammie able to collect enough caps for three benches, she was able to do it in three months. The mission was certainly accomplished.

Pretty soon, Sammie’s Buddy Bench Project began garnering the attention of several news outlets (including Upworthy). For her amazing efforts, Sammie has been the recipient of several awards, appeared on the Today show and was named one of People Magazine’s “Girl’s Changing the World."

And as of 2021, more than 200 bottle cap buddy benches now reside at schools and parks across the country, plus Mexico and Australia, People reported.

This is, of course, not just a beautiful story about helping others. It’s also a major win for sustainability. Habits of Waste reports 1.3 billion bottle caps are used each year. These caps cannot be recycled in the same way along with plastic bottles because each have different melting points, and when mixed in, can ruin an entire batch.

And that’s when they get discarded properly. Millions of caps have been found in our oceans alone, which can be devastating to marine life. In fact, it’s one of the leading causes of death. It’s big caring hearts like Sammie’s that help our planet heal against damage.

Sammie seems to have found her purpose early in life, spreading kindness through creativity. Her book (yes, she’s an author too) titled “Inspire the World: A Kid’s Journey to Making a Difference” debuted in August 2021, and aims to encourage other kids through her own stories of recycling and giving to the community. She also has a podcast called "Sammie Smiles" where she interviews other inspiring guests.

Whatever's next for Sammie, it seems like she is going to lead with kindness and generosity. And it doesn't look like her original idea is going anywhere. If you'd like to donate to Sammie's Buddy Bench Project, you can do so here.

Joy

Meet Eva, the hero dog who risked her life saving her owner from a mountain lion

Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva when a mountain lion suddenly appeared.

Photo by Didssph on Unsplash

A sweet face and fierce loyalty: Belgian Malinois defends owner.

The Belgian Malinois is a special breed of dog. It's highly intelligent, extremely athletic and needs a ton of interaction. While these attributes make the Belgian Malinois the perfect dog for police and military work, they can be a bit of a handful as a typical pet.

As Belgian Malinois owner Erin Wilson jokingly told NPR, they’re basically "a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine.”

It was her Malinois Eva’s natural drive, however, that ended up saving Wilson’s life.

According to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva slightly ahead of her when a mountain lion suddenly appeared and swiped Wilson across the left shoulder. She quickly yelled Eva’s name and the dog’s instincts kicked in immediately. Eva rushed in to defend her owner.

It wasn’t long, though, before the mountain lion won the upper hand, much to Wilson’s horror.

She told TODAY, “They fought for a couple seconds, and then I heard her start crying. That’s when the cat latched on to her skull.”

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The suspected murderer, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was killed by law enforcement at the scene of the crime. Before the rampage, Ramos allegedly shot his grandmother after a disagreement.

“As you all are aware there was another mass shooting today, this time in my home town of Uvalde, Texas,” McConaughey wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. “Once again, we have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us.”

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Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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