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Polo on the Prairie Celebrates 17 Years

Polo on the Prairie Celebrates 17 Years
Event Provides the Horsepower Behind the War on Cancer
M. D. Anderson News Release 02/26/03

The 17th annual Polo on the Prairie, one of The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center’s most successful fund-raisers, is slated for May 3 at the Musselman Brothers Lazy 3 Ranch in Albany, this year boasting the legendary, nine-time Grammy award-winning band, Asleep at the Wheel.

M. D. Anderson Board of Visitors member Mary Anne McCloud and her daughter and son-in-law Melinda and Henry Musselman, also a board member, co-chair the popular polo event, outdoing themselves each year. More than 1,500 supporters join polo players from all over the United States to attend the events of the action-packed weekend.

 “Polo on the Prairie makes a huge difference in the lives of the patients and their families, and we count on our supporters for its success,” McCloud says. “I never dreamed it would become as big as it has, but year after year hundreds of people continue to come to help us fight this war on cancer.”

Because they have seen countless friends and family members touched by cancer, the Musselmans and McCloud were motivated to raise money for research and patient care at M. D. Anderson, as well as increase awareness of the institution’s programs. Henry Musselman converted a portion of the Musselman Brothers Lazy 3 Ranch into a regulation polo field, the size of nine football fields, for the express purpose of donating polo proceeds to M. D. Anderson. And since 1987 Polo on the Prairie has raised more than $2.2 million to fund targeted research initiatives and patient care programs.

“Our mission is two-fold,” Melinda Musselman says. “We want to raise money for M. D. Anderson, but we also want to inform people outside the Houston area about where they can go to receive the best cancer care possible, and we believe that’s M. D. Anderson. Many people have learned about the institution through Polo on the Prairie.”

The weekend event is unique for polo play – combining the fast-paced game with a Texas twist – barbecue, fireworks and country music. The event is family-oriented, patriotic and warm with tradition. Alongside the American flag, the six flags of Texas wave in the breeze as a World War II plane flies overhead and a brass quartet plays “The Star Spangled Banner.” Paddocks for more than 100 head of horses have been temporarily erected, and the field is primed for the players who are either amateur or professionals registered with the United States Polo Association.

“Horses are thrilling,” McCloud says. “I see the hope that polo gives people. The strength and endurance of the game is indicative of the spirit it takes to fight cancer.”

As part of Polo on the Prairie tradition since 1995, nearby Eastland sixth graders take a field trip out to the ranch to watch the playoff games and meet some of the players after a special week-long curriculum about the rules and history of the game, as well as cancer education, prevention and M. D. Anderson research. The students also raise funds for the event, presenting a check for the past several years to Polo on the Prairie themselves. “The children work hard,” says McCloud, a former teacher herself. “Last year, they were calling everyone they knew to raise money for M. D. Anderson, and they’ve collected more than $4,400 to fight cancer. They’re great kids with big hearts.”

Each year, Melinda Musselman secures one of the highlights of Polo on the Prairie – the entertainment. “We focus on Texas musicians, and we’ve been thrilled to have had some of the best talent in the business,” Musselman says. 

This year the event boasts the legendary western swing band, Asleep at the Wheel. Entertaining since 1970 when they opened for Alice Cooper, their career spans three decades, with highlights including their being voted best country and western band by Rolling Stone magazine in 1977 to touring with Bob Dylan in 2000. “This is improvisational music,” says lead vocalist, Ray Benson on the band’s Web site. “I think it’s interesting to listen to updated versions of what people do, hearing how they have evolved. People change, and I love to have the luxury of having a career this long to do it.”

Key programs that this year’s Polo on the Prairie will support include:

Genitourinary Cancers – Funds will be used in clinical trials testing surgical procedures, drug combinations and schedules, and gene therapies.

Endometrial Cancer (uterine cancer) – Proceeds will be used to advance basic and clinical research regarding endometrial cancer, the most common type of gynecological cancer.

Science Park/Library – The library links researchers at the Smithville, Texas campus to specific information in appropriate scientific literature and journals. It 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.

The Anderson Network Hospitality Room – Proceeds will support this special “patient oasis” of M. D. Anderson where patients or family members may stop in for refreshment, comfort and assistance from volunteers who have had similar cancer experiences.

Chaplaincy and Clinical Pastoral Education – Money will be used to support chaplains who visit patients before surgery or other medical procedures, respond to patient and family requests for prayer or spiritual counseling, lead worship services and conduct support groups. Clinical Pastoral Education is an accredited program that offers education opportunities to individuals who wish to advance their faith and pastoral skills.

For information about sponsorships or the event, call 1-800-525-5841 or (713) 792-3450.


© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center