Living the Good Life
Senior punter continues OSU’s ‘pay it forward’ mentality
By Chris GaittenPublished September 1, 2012
The beginning of autumn signals the start of a rising fever across Central Ohio. Plastic scarlet and gray flags sprout from car windows. TV cameras pump every last morsel of Ohio State football content into the living rooms of a rabid, salivating fan base.
Sometimes it’s hard to imagine a place where none of this matters, but Ben Buchanan, Ohio State’s fifth-year-senior punter, knows just such a world.
The tangled, remote jungles of Honduras remain untouched by football, or most of what we would recognize as modern society. Buchanan has visited these isolated Central American lands three times since eighth grade to fulfill another passion – serving those in need.
“You go there, you see dirt roads, you see just no air conditioning. You’re taking cold showers if you even get showers,” he said. “And these [conditions] are what people live in, and a lot of times are ill or sick in.”
Buchanan, a graduate of Westerville Central, embarks on these medical missions with his father, Dr. Tim Buchanan. They provide free medical and dental care to the impoverished people of the Honduran jungle, many of whom have never seen a medical professional in their lives.
First, they fly into the region’s biggest city, San Pedro Sula, but that’s the easy part of the journey.
“We’re taking five-hour, back-end-of-a-pickup rides to a two-hour canoe ride,” he said, “to places where they don’t have electricity, and there’s just absolutely nothing out there.”
Buchanan and his fellow aid workers provide a week of free healthcare to the local people in these destitute villages. He assists wherever he’s needed – setting up and tearing down makeshift pharmacies, counting pills, and cleaning dental equipment.
“Anything that I can to make a difference, to give back,” he said, later explaining that the healthcare makes a huge difference in people’s lives, but it’s difficult to leave behind that level of crushing poverty.
“For me, it just makes me much more appreciative for everything that I have.”
That appreciation has driven him to extend his giving beyond the jungle.
This past spring break he took a vacation with his girlfriend, Ohio State student Paige Walters, to visit his grandmother near Naples, Florida. Before they departed, he researched Habitat for Humanity’s website and found a project in Collier County where they could help. The couple spent about five hours one day installing hurricane stripping on houses.
“It’s just a beautiful thing that I feel that’s sometimes lost in our culture,” Buchanan said. “Just wanting to do something for someone else just for the kindness of your heart. When you’re not gonna have anything to gain, no one’s looking, just knowing in your heart that you did something nice for someone.”
Buchanan’s service ethic hasn’t gone unrecognized, though.
He was recently nominated for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, which recognizes 11 players in the entire nation for their dedication to community service. He was also a finalist for the 2011 Wuerffel Trophy, which awards student athletes who excel on the field, in the classroom, and in their communities.
“You know, it is very hectic. But really how I balance it is through my faith, my family, those that I surround myself with,” he said. “I was taught that service is just as important as your sports performance, as your school performance ... that’s what it is to live a good life.”
He graduated cum laude in June with a degree in strategic communication, and he will begin his master’s program in sport management this year.
More mature and polished than the typical college athlete, Buchanan slips into the traditional, careful coach-speak when asked about the team. But, when talking about some of the rougher times in Ohio State’s recent past, though, he was relentlessly, genuinely positive.
“I’ve had the opportunity to play for three different coaches in five years, which is something neat that a lot of people can’t say,” he said, praising each of his coaches.
He acknowledged that dealing with three different personalities and styles was hard at times, and not necessarily how he envisioned his college career.
“But the way that my family has taught me to look at it – and it’s very true – is that it’s something that I’m going to have to deal with in the job world,” he said.
As for what that job world holds for him, Buchanan said that if the NFL comes knocking, he will answer.
“That’s every kid’s dream, just like coming to Ohio State,” he said.
Or at least it was for the Westerville-born-and-bred punter who attended his first game in the Horseshoe with his father at age five. But if the NFL doesn’t call, that’s okay, too – he may aim for a job within the PGA or as an athletic director.
He spoke about it with a calmness and wisdom beyond his years, like someone who has seen enough to know that everything in front of him isn’t everything.
“It’s all about balance,” he said. “I try to realize that my life on this earth is more than just for my own gains and ambitions.”
The roster of 2012 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team award recipients will be announced in this month.