COLUMBUS, Ohio – The pandemic hasn’t been easy for many people, but when your profession is centered around large crowds at clubs and other venues that are no longer open, what do you do?
For one East Brady-area native, the pandemic helped him find a new purpose in life.
“When the stay-at-home stuff happened, I was stuck at home,” Pat Buzzard said. A 1988 graduate of East Brady High School and a 1992 graduate of Clarion University, Buzzard has spent the past 30 years in show business, from international success and hit songs with the band, Saving Jane, to solo work and other collaborations in his adopted hometown of Columbus, Ohio.
When the pandemic hit and all the opportunities for live shows instantly dried up, Buzzard said he did what a lot of other performers did, looked to the internet for an audience.
“I just decided one morning I’d do a livestream and see where it goes,” he said, explaining the birth of Pat’s Pandemic Podcast.
Buzzard said the live-streamed podcast is about as low-tech as it comes.
“It’s just a closeup of my face. I drink coffee, say hello. People post things and I talk about them,” he said. “That’s how it started to grow.”
To help out some of the clubs and venues that usually feature him on stage, Buzzard said he got some T-shirts from the businesses and began giving them away on his show. That led to shirts being made to feature his Pandemic Podcast, that he would send out to his followers in return for any donation that he planned to give to a charity.
“We’ve been able to raise a tremendous amount of money,” Buzzard said, noting that he then began looking into small charities and came across Christopher’s Promise, a grassroots charity that raises money to have bicycles custom made for children with disabilities.
Helping kids with special needs get a bike really hit home for Buzzard.
“Growing up where we grew up, my bike was my freedom,” he said, recalling the Frogtown area near Bradys Bend where his parents, Jim and Karen Buzzard, still call home. “With Christopher’s Promise, all they want to do is put kids on bikes.”
He explained that the average cost to customize a bicycle for a child with a disability is $1,500 to $2,000, putting them out of reach for many families.
With the money he raised in donations from his podcast, Buzzard said he was recently able to sponsor one child who received a new, customized bicycle in late August. The group presented the bike to the little girl live on Buzzard’s podcast.
“It was life changing for me,” he said, adding that the event prompted he and his fans to want to do more. “Now my life’s goal is to buy a lot of bikes.”
Buzzard said the support he has received has not only come from folks he knows in the central Ohio area, but from many people back in Western Pennsylvania, some from family and school connections, others with Clarion University ties.
“It’s amazing, in incredibly difficult times, to see people’s outpouring [of donations],” he said.
Growing up in the East Brady area, Buzzard said he came late to music. It wasn’t until college that he picked up a guitar and began to learn to play.
Buzzard said as time went on, he began to put more effort into learning guitar, and eventually met up with Marti Dodson, and they formed Saving Jane around 2001. The band released its first album in 2002, and found larger success with their second release, “Girl Next Door,” in 2005 which featured a hit single by the same name.
Buzzard said the band toured the world for about 10 years, appearing at everything from music festivals to television shows like “Regis & Kelly.”
“If that taught me anything, it’s that if opportunity knocks, open the door,” he said.
He said he settled in Columbus, where he lives with his wife, Colleen, and son, J.T., and continues to perform and do solo work, including a solo cover of “Wagon Wheel,” which he released in 2008.
“I’ve been unbelievably blessed by the support I’ve received in my career,” he said, recalling a homecoming concert he played a number of years ago at East Brady’s Riverfest.
That support, he said, made it clear he wanted to help others, especially during these tough times.
“The podcast has been a way to stay in touch with people, a lot who are struggling with the isolation,” he said. “I didn’t want to make it showy; I didn’t want to make it about me.”
With the fundraising for Christopher’s Promise, Buzzard said he hopes to bring joy to four children a year. Those who wish to donate can reach out to Buzzard via his Facebook page at “Patrick Buzzard” or https://www.facebook.com/patrick.buzzard.3.
As a special offer, he said that if any organization would like to team up with him and donate, he will come and play a show for them once he can.
For more on Christopher’s Promise, visit www.christopherspromise.org/partners.html.