Polo on the Prairie Charges into 15th Year
Polo on the Prairie Charges into 15th Year
M. D. Anderson News Release 03/06/01
Polo on the Prairie celebrates two landmark anniversaries April 21, when hundreds of supporters gather at the Musselman Brothers’ Lazy 3 Ranch between Albany and Breckenridge, Texas, to benefit The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.
As M. D. Anderson commemorates its 60th anniversary of working to eradicate cancer, the community-organized family event marks its 15th year of West Texas fund raising to help accomplish that mission. The gathering includes polo ponies and polo players along with about 1,500 spectators and friends, both young and old who will arrive from across Texas and around the country.
This year’s Big Day will bring top-notch amateur polo play, Joe Allen’s barbecue and the song stylings of Nashville’s Walt Wilkins, who has written for country music big names Ty Herndon and Ricky Skaggs as well as past Polo entertainer Pat Green. Wilkins’ parents have been making the annual journey to Polo on the Prairie almost since the event’s inception.
Since 1987, Polo on the Prairie has raised $1.7 million to fund targeted research initiatives for dozens of types of cancers and numerous quality of life and patient care programs.
“When I see the toll cancer takes on people, I wouldn’t mind standing on the corner with a cup to collect money,” explains co-chair Mary Anne McCloud about why she, her family and volunteers concentrate at least six months each year on producing the popular fund raiser.
When McCloud’s son-in-law Henry had the dream of Polo on the Prairie, his wife, Melinda Musselman, McCloud and the rest of the family supported the dream. They laughingly said they
might have to pay people to come to such a remote location because polo is normally played at a more accessible polo facility that provides stabling for the horses.
In contrast, Polo on the Prairie's site is grazing land for cattle that has been transformed into a scenic field of coastal Bermuda grass, with the six flags of Texas flying. The rural location adds to the unique adventure of attending the event.
“We never thought it would develop into such a tradition,” says Henry Musselman, who
co-chairs the event with his wife and mother-in-law. “Unfortunately, cancer has touched so many lives, and it’s important to all of us — the volunteers, the polo players, the people who attend — to play a role in changing that. We like that the sport of polo has become a competition that everyone can enjoy. And now after all these years, people who regularly attend the event have become well versed on the rules of the game.”
In between play-off games polo players often mingle among the crowds and answer questions about the game. And each year, organizers publish a souvenir program that includes player lineups and explanations on the rules of the game.
To start the education process early, McCloud and teachers began working with area middle schools such as Eastland and Woodson four years ago to develop a curriculum that encompasses cancer prevention guidelines as well as polo etiquette and the origins of the game. Students apply their newly acquired polo knowledge on a field trip to the Musselman Ranch to view a play-off game on the eve of the event. They become cancer fighters and strongly support Polo on the Prairie.
Proceeds from the 2001 event will benefit four M. D. Anderson programs:
Construction of the Basic Sciences Research Building, a new 505,000-square-foot facility designed to accommodate M. D. Anderson’s growing laboratory space needs and collaboration with nearby institutions doing like research. Completion is expected in 2003.
Research into the basic mechanisms of cancer — such as what controls the proliferation and differentiation of cells and how organs form from them — which will facilitate discovery of new cancer prevention and treatment options for patients.
The Anderson Network Hospitality Room, a special room at M. D. Anderson where almost 25,300 patients and family members visit each year for comfort and support from volunteers who have had similar cancer experiences. This year marks the 13th year Polo proceeds have funded this effort.
Science Park Research Division Library, which enters its fourth year of support from Polo funding, links researchers at the Smithville, Texas, campus to specific information in appropriate scientific literature. With such journals serving as a cancer researcher’s valuable connection to collaborative information, the library proves vital to furthering work at M. D. Anderson’s Department of Carcinogenesis, which conducts research into understanding the causes of cancer and how to prevent it.
To receive information on Polo on the Prairie, contact 1-800-525-5841 or (713) 792-3450.