If you think you know who Joe Buck is, I would argue that your perception might not be as accurate as you may think. Many recognize him as the play-by-play sportscaster announcer for Fox Sports, and son of legendary sportscaster Jack Buck. Clearly there is a kinetic passion for sports within Buck; we’ve all heard him behind the microphone during our favorite games. However, I sat down with Joe over the weekend to talk about something that reaches far beyond passion for him, which is St. Louis Children’s Hospital. More specifically, we talked about the new docu-series The Frontline For Hope, which Buck and Coolfire Media have teamed up to produce and air on KSDK.
I watched the first episode prior to my interview with Joe, and became emotional by the touching stories that unfolded. You’re confronted with the arrant heartbreak in the parents’ eyes as they struggle to keep composure beside their ailing child, but you also hear a comforting intrinsic compassion in Buck’s voice as he narrates their stories.
He began to tell me about the series and why it’s so close to his heart, saying, “I literally got more feedback on this since it started airing than just about anything I’ve ever done, and all I do for it is read the script. Anybody could read the script, but I think the way [Coolfire] put it together really shows what that hospital is all about. It’s really what hooked me as a young parent…We had our first daughter when we were 27 and there was a time where doctors thought she might have Cystic Fibrosis, which she didn’t ultimately have, but we had to go in there and she had to get checked for it for a couple days… I remember being in there and seeing the parents come and go, seeing these kids, seeing the nurses, seeing the doctors, and what goes on there every day, and the great stories, and the heartbreaking ones. These nurses and doctors just aren’t human in the best way; they’re just different that they can deal with all that. Even as a young guy, I just determined that whatever money I raised was going to go to Children’s Hospital.”
With the help of Joe Buck, and many charitable donations, the radiology department where the children get x-rays and CAT scans was transformed into what Buck describes as a “stadium kind of a feel,” where you’ll see autographed memorabilia and jerseys from Albert Pujols and Tom Brady, to x-rays of football helmets and soccer shoes.
Buck said, “It’s trying to make that experience as easy as we can for not just the kid, but the parents. That’s how I got involved… you’re living and dying with every test result when you think your child might be sick, so it’s a diversion for the parents, too.”
It’s difficult to describe the natural enthusiasm that poured out as Joe talked about The Frontline For Hope project and his own personal experience with St. Louis Children’s Hospital. He was no longer the sportscaster you hear through your television calling plays during a pivotal moment in the game; he was as real as you and me, with life experiences as difficult as anyone else sitting in the coffee shop that day.
Buck continued, “The Frontline For Hope tells the story of what goes on at that hospital every day and you get to follow the journeys of these amazing, strong kids that come in there. Most have happy endings, but they don’t all… you also see the intensity and frenetic pace that they live in in that hospital… I’m overwhelmingly proud of just being a part of the vehicle that gets this thing out… Children’s is the one that I was in–I was inside those walls as a parent. You come there and I think what you realize when you’re a parent is that your life can change with the next MRI result if your kid is in there. I was blown away by the job they did for us as young parents to put our kid first; make us feel like we were important to them. Children’s is where I went as a parent, and it wasn’t because they pitched me–they didn’t have to. I went there as somebody in need like any other parent walking through the door there. It’s a top ten hospital and it’s right here. It’s part of this city, and it’s something that I’m really proud of that exists in this city, which is my hometown.”
Often times when you’ve reached a level of status and celebrity such as Buck, you’re continuously asked to partner with organization after organization, and charity after charity. However, he realizes the importance of putting your name behind an organization, and he respectfully commits only to those he has a genuine connection to, which allows him to speak genuinely.
Buck elaborated, “It’s got to make sense for me. When I do this kind of stuff, I want to have a personal connection to it… Any parent, I think, when Children’s hospital says, ‘We need your help’, if you don’t react to that, then there’s something wrong with you, because then you think your world is going too good, and the minute you think that, you’re going to get slapped back down in to reality.”
Joe’s late father, the great Jack Buck, was also involved heavily with charity work, which has made a lasting impression on Joe. Continuing his father’s legacy is equally important to Buck, as well as supporting the charities that strive to raise awareness for the same illnesses that ultimately ended Jack’s life.
In reference to his help with the Lung Cancer Alliance as well as raising awareness for Parkinson’s, Buck said, “Because if it was something that he cared about deeply, then I care about it.”
Arguably one of the biggest fans of the docu-series is Joe’s mother, and not just for the obvious reasons, but because she too could feel the great sentiment coming from Buck as he walks you through the emotional stories of the families.
“I’m so proud of this show,” Buck said, “my mom called me the other night after she watched it and she was just like ‘Oh my God, that show was incredible. I just think it’s one of the best things you’ve ever done’. All I did was read the script, and I read it in a way that I don’t typically talk on air. Everything I do on air is really loud and it’s yelling play-by-play… When I read those words on the page, I think any normal person puts themselves in that situation as a parent. So when you’re talking about a kid that’s involved in a car accident… my daughter is sixteen, so it hits home.”
The gravity of the situation is not lost on Buck, who said, “[These parents have] been told no in other spots, and now they come here to Children’s and the answer is, ‘we can fix this.’ As a parent, I put myself not in the kid’s spot, but I put myself in the parent’s spot and what that must feel like to hear, ‘we can do this’, and that’s what drives me when I’m reading it. I think these are really important things to talk about.”
I asked Joe what he would ultimately like to see come of this docu-series, and his vision was perfectly clear and studied.
Buck answered, “It’s so multi-layered. It’s awareness for maybe something that a lot of us take for granted in this town… That right down the highway there’s this miracle place where stuff is going on every minute of every day that is life altering… Maybe some parent sees a child going through something and thinks, ‘Oh that’s similar to what my daughter is dealing with, I better get this checked’. There’s awareness on three levels: for what’s going on, it gets the Children’s Hospital name out there, and if there’s something that they’re watching that they’re maybe dealing with, it’s time to get checked.”
The Frontline For Hope airs every Saturday night on KSDK, and if you’re a parent, a child or anyone with half a heart, I recommend you watch. If you don’t take my word for it, take it from Mama Buck.