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Fort Wayne student receives international “Diana Award”

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) - 11-year-old Sammie Vance received international recognition Wednesday as a recipient of one of this year's "Diana Awards." The awards are named after the late Princess Diana, who says she believed young people have the power to change the world.

Back in 2017, Sammie advocated for bringing "buddy benches" to her school, Haley Elementary. She was just 8 years old at the time. Buddy benches allow shy, bullied, or lonely children to sit and safely make new friends.

Sammie tells us each bench is made out of recycled plastic bottle caps. Now a student at Blackhawk Middle School, she's helped install more than 100 benches in 50 states and several countries.

Wednesday's virtual awards ceremony featured "congratulations" from famous British voices, like actress Emma Thompson and Prince Harry.

This isn't the first award Sammie has received for her efforts, but she says that doesn't make the recognition any less meaningful.

"I'm always surprised at the new ones," she says. "And I'm happy because I know that the word is getting out. But I did not start the buddy bench project for awards and stuff. I did just to help, and I did not know that it would take off like this. I'm happy it did though."

Sammie says, because of COVID-19, kids aren't able to take advantage of the buddy benches at school. However, she says she's still collecting bottle caps for the cause. Sammie tells us she's started a new letter-writing project she calls "sending smiles."

Luke Secaur

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