“Both Educational and Fun”: Support from William and Laura Buck Helps to Fund SportsZone
This October, a completely reimagined Sports Challenge exhibit will open to the public, made possible by the support of a group of generous donors. William and Laura Buck, part-owners of the Philadelphia Phillies, made a $1 million gift to the project in 2014. The Bucks’ interest in sports dates from childhood. Bill Buck describes attending double-header baseball games as a boy, playing baseball in school and camp in the summer, and taking Laura to the ballpark when they first started dating. Throughout the years, they enjoyed many sports, including tennis, golf, skiing, and squash, but baseball remains their passion. “Athletes can be great role models for young people,” Laura explains. “Phillies players visit children in the hospital, and kids identify with certain players.” Bill points out, “The same discipline and drive that you need to succeed in sports helps children to succeed in school and in other areas of their lives. So when kids get involved in sports, it’s a positive force for them.”
The Bucks have long supported a range of charitable causes, from the arts and music to museums and schools. Along with the entire Phillies organization, they support research into ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, to fund the search for a cure for this debilitating condition. Their support of the new sport exhibit at The Franklin Institute was in response to, “something that we saw was really needed,” Laura explains. “We visited the Institute and we’re fortunate to be able to donate to it.” Sports Challenge is one of the Institute’s most popular permanent exhibits, and was last renovated in 2000. In that time, more than 10 million people passed through the exhibit, and the interactives, while still fun, needed to be updated. The Institute’s in-house Exhibit Design Team completely reimagined what the exhibit could be, and tested many different designs before settling on a group of experiences that help visitors learn about how their bodies work, from muscle movement to nutrition and fitness.
A particularly stunning experience in the new exhibit is called "Race Against Pro Athletes"—visitors can race against each other and against videos of famous athletes on a 40-foot track. Among those athletes will also be a very special featured runner: “My favorite part of the exhibit will be watching young children get to race against the Phillie Phanatic,” Laura says. “He’s such a popular mascot, and no matter how many times you’ve seen him, he’s always fun to watch,” Bill adds. Bill is looking forward to the pitching interactive that analyzes the motion of your body to help you learn how your muscles work together to throw the perfect pitch. “This exhibit will be both educational and fun,” he says. “We brought our children to The Franklin Institute when they were young, and our grandchildren visit now. We like to make investments where they will benefit a lot of people, and this new exhibit will do that through the science of sport.”