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Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Meet Sammie Vance: Pint-sized philanthropic powerhouse and GivingTuesdaySpark Leader


This year, GivingTuesday, the global day of giving held on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, will take place on November 30.  As nonprofits and donors prepare for the giving season that continues until the end of the year, Charity Navigator is sharing philanthropic stories to provide inspiration. 

Meet Sammie Vance, a remarkable 12-year old from Fort Wayne, Indiana. She’s a GivingTuesdaySpark Leader, philanthropist, visionary, changemaker, and author.  Sammie demonstrates that giving can encompass many things, in many different ways, at any age. Below is her story written in her own words.

Hi, I’m Sammie Vance, a 12-year-old GivingTuesdaySpark Leader. I am best known for spreading kindness through Sammie’s Buddy Bench Project, an initiative I founded in 2017 encouraging the recycling of plastic bottle caps to create and install  “buddy” benches on playgrounds in schools across the U.S. The benches would be environmentally-friendly, and also provide a safe space for kids who felt lonely. Kids sitting on a buddy bench would indicate to other kids to volunteer to ask them to play. 

I also initiated Sending Smiles, a letter-writing campaign that involves sending an encouraging letter to someone, along with a little laminated smile to brighten their day. So far, letters have been sent to friends, family, veterans, and teachers. Over 600 smiles have made their way to almost all 50 states and as far as India and Tanzania! 

This year, I achieved a major milestone. I published my first book, Inspire the World: A Kid’s Journey to Making a Difference! My hope is that it will inspire others to do great things that would make a difference no matter their age. In the book, I share my journey and show others how they can make a difference. One of the things I talk about is inspiring through giving.

Taking a cue from Sending Smiles, my weekly podcast “Sammie Smiles” allows me to interview inspiring individuals giving back to their communities every day. Their stories  are intended to make others smile, and allow listeners to begin their week on the right foot with positive messaging. 

In 2019, I became a GivingTuesdaySpark Leader. It has been an amazing experience and has challenged me to think of different ways to give, not just with money, but with time and creativity. Also, having the opportunity to team up with and meeting other like-minded youth leaders is really cool!

What inspires me to give? Helping others and making an impact. I know we don’t always see the results of our giving, but regardless, the act of giving is a big motivator to keep going. 

GivingTuesday is a day that can bring us all closer together. It is a day to feel part of a larger community, to give to those in need, and to support causes that are close to our heart. Everyone has something to give whether it’s a dollar, a clothing item, a compliment, or a smile. You don’t have to be rich to give, but I do believe you need to be kind to give. 

This year, I am challenging everyone on November 30 to write a letter to someone and send it with a smile! It could be to a neighbor, classmate, family member, mailman, senior citizen -- anyone! I wrote a blog about it and will send a video on the day and create an optional Zoom if people want to join me in writing a letter together. I even have printable smiles, or you can make your own. My hope is to give lots of smiles on GivingTuesday and make the world a little brighter. Please sign up if you’d like to join.

If I had one wish for the future, it would be that we could all make more of an effort to be kind and more aware of the people around us.
Kindness matters, and everyone can make a difference, no matter how old they are. 

Photo Credit: All photos compliments of Sammie Vance/Heidi Vance. All rights reserved. Reuse prohibited without permission.

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