Junior Brown to Highlight West Texas' Polo on the Prairie
M. D. Anderson News Release 03/05/02
Country-rock crossover sensation Junior Brown brings his innovative music to West Texas for the 16th Polo on the Prairie, one of The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center's most successful fund raisers, April 20, 2002.
More than 1,500 spectators and friends are expected to gather at the Musselman Brothers' Lazy 3 Ranch between Albany and Breckenridge to enjoy first-rate amateur polo play. And for those not too stuffed on Joe Allen's "world famous" barbecue and fixin's, there will be two-stepping and jamming to Brown's rockin' country-"rockabilly" tunes.
For the fourth consecutive year, a dazzling fireworks display, underwritten by Tom Sikes and Mr. and Mrs. Richard Donnelly, will sparkle across the expansive West Texas sky to conclude the day's festivities.
"So many volunteers put in numerous hours each year to make sure this is a fun event for all, but our real reward is knowing that we're helping advance the war on cancer," said Mary Anne McCloud, who co-chairs the event with her daughter and son-in-law, Melinda and Henry Musselman.
Since 1987, Polo on the Prairie has raised $2 million to fund targeted research initiatives for dozens of types of cancers and numerous quality-of-life and patient care programs.
It was Henry Musselman who came up with the idea to bring world-class polo players and ponies to a remote West Texas ranch to raise money for M. D. Anderson. So he converted a sliver of the Lazy 3 Ranch into a regulation polo field - equivalent in size to nine football fields - complete with coastal Bermuda grass that required special coaxing up from the dry Texas prairie.
Each year special pens are constructed for more than 100 horses of the visiting players. Most players bring at least one horse for each of the four chukkers, or game-playing periods.
"The dedication and hard work that the polo players give to this event year after year is beyond belief," Musselman said. "I always thought I would have to beg these guys to come and play in the middle of nowhere. But with the combination of good polo for a great reason, everybody still able to ride calls months in advance saying they are bringing their horses up and getting ready," he said.
"Players like Craig Duke and Jud Wroe spend countless hours ferrying equipment to get the field in shape, figuring out feed and stabling for all of the horses and taking care of a million other details. And all of this a long way from Palm Beach."
The polo players are all professionals or amateurs registered with the United States Polo Association. Past competitors have included actor Tommy Lee Jones of San Saba; Joe and Joe Wayne Barry, from the world-renowned polo family; H. Ben Taub, a Houston philanthropist; Jay Upchurch, a composer for the Fort Worth Symphony; Kelly Beal, whose family helped found the Midland Polo Club and the El Dorado Polo Club located in Palm Springs; State Rep. Rob Junell of San Angelo (who plans to bring his horse "Wayland," who has played more chukkers than any horse in Polo on the Prairie's history); and Hector Galindo, considered by many to be the finest U.S. polo player today.
Having long been a family affair, second generation Polo on the Prairie competitors have begun to emerge, and last year young polo athletes - son and daughters of many of the longtime participants played a slow-paced exhibition round between matches.
"We work on this event at least six months each year," said McCloud, who, like Henry Musselman, is a member of M. D. Anderson's Board of Visitors, "but I can't tell you how many stories I've heard of children, women and men - families whose lives have been touched by Polo on the Prairie and cancer - and the hope they've been given at M. D. Anderson."
Contributions from this year's event will help fund five vital initiatives, including Polo on the Prairie's highest funding priority, the Physician-Scientist Program, which provides resources for nurturing the institution's brightest young faculty members into tomorrow's oncology leaders.
They are as exceptional in cancer research as they are in patient care. The program provides salary support, underwrites research costs to enable a participant to conceive and build an independent research program and offers senior research faculty as hands-on mentors.
Other key programs Polo on the Prairie will support, include:
- Research into pancreatic cancer, which is historically under funded and one of the most devastating of all cancers because, by the time symptoms are detected, pancreatic cancer usually has progressed to advanced stages. The current five-year survival rate is 5 percent.
- Proton Therapy Research Fund, which will examine innovations in using a
high-energy proton beam to target tumor sites and provide greater control and precision than other forms of radiation.
- Research into melanoma, which will test the efficacy of a specific vaccine in stopping the spread of eye melanoma through the blood after it is detected and treated in the eye.
- The Anderson Network Hospitality Room, a special oasis at M. D. Anderson where patients and family members stop in for refreshment, comfort and support from volunteers who have had similar cancer experiences.
- Science Park Research Division Library, which links researchers at the Smithville, Texas, campus to specific information in appropriate scientific literature and journals. The library proves vital to furthering work at M. D. Anderson's Department of Carcinogenesis, which is headquartered there and conducts research into understanding the causes of cancer and how to prevent it.
To receive information on Polo on the Prairie, call 800/525-5841 or 713/792-3450.