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Under the Palms and on the Prairie

Polo events prove effective fundraisers in fight against cancer

Members of the Duke and Musselman families, from right, attended the 2012 Polo Under the Palms: Craig and Roni Duke, Molly Musselman, Polo Under the Palms co-founder Mary Uihlein and Polo on the Prairie co-founder Henry Musselman. Photo by Eric NalpasBy Victor Scott

So you might ask, “What was the motivation that launched an MD Anderson fundraiser in Sarasota, Fla. called Polo Under the Palms?”  It began more than 1,300 miles away on the prairies of West Texas. Co-founder Jamie Uihlein of Sarasota, Fla., explains.

“In 2004, I was diagnosed with stage II tongue cancer and spent six weeks at MD Anderson,” says Jamie. “It was a great time in my life simply because I got to know the institution.”

Today he’s cancer-free and grateful, along with his wife, Mary, for the care and support he received at MD Anderson.  

“We had never witnessed such an exceptional medical facility or such a caring and accommodating staff,” says Mary. “Jamie and I wanted our community to know that the best cancer research and care in the nation were available to them.”

The couple searched for a way to spread the message of hope MD Anderson offers to their family and friends throughout Florida.  

“We heard of an event in West Texas called Polo on the Prairie,” says Jamie.  

Henry Musselman, a Midland native and member of the MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors (BOV), and his wife, Melinda, and her mother, BOV member Mary Anne McCloud, of Eastland, co-founded Polo on the Prairie to support MD Anderson and its mission to eradicate cancer.

Henry Musselman represents team Lazy 3 at Polo on the Prairie 2013. Photo by Miriam Smith“My mother-in-law is a longtime member of the Board of Visitors,” says Henry. “Several years ago, after attending an exhibition polo match on our ranch, she asked us to host a match to raise funds for, and awareness of, the institution. Our first event was in 1987, and we never imagined it would grow into the magnificent fundraiser it is today.”

“Polo has been a big part of our lives for many years,” says Jamie. “After talking with Mary, we decided a similar event here in Sarasota would be a great way to get the word out about MD Anderson.”

With its third event in March, Polo Under the Palms has raised more than $734,000.  Polo on the Prairie celebrated its 27th anniversary in April and has raised more than $4.7 million.  Together the two events have raised more than $5.4 million to support MD Anderson’s world-class cancer research and patient care initiatives.  

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center