Metro-East Living

Born with no arms, metro-east man continues to inspire

John Foppe on the Mother Teresa canonization and his upcoming TV pilot

John Foppe of Breese is excited about the airing of his upcoming pilot "Armed with Faith," which will appear on EWTN, a Catholic global network. Foppe, who was born with no arms, lives a full and productive life and refuses to feel sorry for himse
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John Foppe of Breese is excited about the airing of his upcoming pilot "Armed with Faith," which will appear on EWTN, a Catholic global network. Foppe, who was born with no arms, lives a full and productive life and refuses to feel sorry for himse

Video producer Chuck Neff has been following around John Foppe with his camera off and on for nearly 30 years.

He’s inspired by the Breese man born with no arms who lives a full and productive life and refuses to feel sorry for himself.

“It’s been a great privilege to be with this guy,” said Neff, owner of Salt River Productions in St. Louis.

Neff has turned his recent footage of Foppe into a 30-minute TV program called “Armed with Faith,” which will be broadcast on EWTN, a global Catholic network. Show times are 9:30 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Sunday.

If what I go through can help others and show them what’s possible, then I’m willing to do it.

John Foppe on his outreach

Neff and Foppe think of the program as a pilot that could evolve into a TV series.

The program focuses on Foppe’s family life with wife, Christine, and 9-year-old daughter, Faith.

“It’s my story, but it’s told more from a faith perspective,” Foppe said. “It’s about my relationship with God and how that sustains me.”

Foppe is an author whose story first became widely known after he published the 2002 book “What’s Your Excuse? Make the Most of What You Have.”

He earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s in social work from St. Louis University. Today, he’s executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of St. Louis and a part-time professional speaker who has traveled all over the world.

“My life has always been an open book,” Foppe said. “I made that decision a long time ago. If what I go through can help others and show them what’s possible, then I’m willing to do it.

Foppe and his family are traveling to Rome on Friday for the canonization of Mother Teresa, a significant figure in their lives. Her Missionaries of Charity prayed for them when they were having trouble conceiving due to Christine’s endometriosis.

“They gave us VIP tickets (to the canonization), so we’re going,” Foppe said. “The sisters want to see my daughter.”

Foppe first visited the Vatican at age 6. Pope Paul VI summoned “the little bambino without arms who can do so much with his feet,” kissed him and gave him a medallion.

Neff started filming Foppe when Foppe was a senior at Mater Dei High School in Breese and Neff was producing a video on self-esteem. He continued periodic filming, and the two became friends.

Neff pitched the idea of a reality show based on Foppe’s life to secular networks a couple of years ago but got no contract offers.

Neff and Foppe decided EWTN might be a more appropriate home because Foppe’s Catholic faith is so important to him.

“They’re going to show the pilot, and we’ll see where it goes,” Foppe said.

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