POLO FOR HEART Horses, Hats & History
Imagine players on thoroughbred horses, racing at top speeds, while striking a small ball with great precision down the grass field towards the goal. It’s quite clear that the 2,500 year-old game of polo definitely doesn’t lack excitement. As possibly the oldest team sport, it comes with a lot of history. Nomadic warriors in Burma are thought to be the first players of the game. It rapidly spread, and was well established in England by about 1869. Over the years, it increased in popularity, with polo clubs establishing themselves across the globe. By the 1930s it was an Olympic sport that attracted crowds of over 30,000 attendees.
Over a quarter of a century ago, Colonel Michael Sifton’s father passed away from a stroke. Throughout his life, his love for people and polo was evident. As a polo fan, respected player, and philanthropist, he was the perfect candidate to start the renowned annual event, Polo for Heart. Sifton brought together two significant aspects of his life: the Toronto Polo Club and the Heart Action
Committee. Together they created the first polo event, attended by 600 people, and successfully raised $25,000 for charity.
Polo for Heart is always a highlight on SHE’S summer calendar. A proud media sponsor of the event two years running, Polo for Heart is not only a great experience to see the regal sport live, but also a chance to give back to the community. This year was a spectacle of sights and sounds including parachutists, kangaroos, fashion shows and of course some polo.
Thirty-two years later, Polo for Heart has become somewhat of an international event. Players from around the world attend from countries such as Ireland, Argentina, England, South Africa, and the United States. It has raised over $4 million for the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario. Sifton passed away in 1995, however he would be proud of the philanthropic impact his efforts have produced. His wife and sons have done a fantastic job of carrying on his legacy, with the help of the many passionate volunteers. This year, Lloyd Robertson (formerly of CTV fame) continued his position as the honorary chair of the executive committee for the third year in a row.
The Heart & Stroke Foundation strives to prevent disease, save lives, and promote recovery. Last year, $300 million was committed over
10 years to fund long-term research at leading universities and hospitals. Furthermore, over 160,000 school children were engaged through interactive programs to inform and promote the importance of healthy eating and exercise. Since 1979, Southlake Foundation has granted $93.8 million to the hospital, transforming it into a world-class health care facility. As a result from this support, and from the support of countless volunteers, the latest equipment is used to help the patients, and hopefully transform their lives. Donations go towards cardiac, cancer, diagnostic, surgical, paediatric, and obstetric priorities at the hospital. The money raised from Polo for Heart is donated to these charities, and is used in a way to maximize its outcome.
This year, SHE reprised its role as media sponsor of the event, and it was a privlege. The $180,000 that was raised this year went towards the Heart & Stroke Foundation’s Stroke Recovery Centre at Sunnybook, as well as purchasing a new MRI machine at Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket. Under The Ritz-carlton VIP tent, the SHE team enjoyed mingling with other guests, as well as the delicious food. The three-day event included daily polo matches, a silent auction, boutique tents, a children’s village (complete with an exotic petting zoo), an art walk, and a fashion show. The fashion show hosted by Upper Canada Mall featured some great summer looks from labels such as Zara, Mendocino, Guess, and Chico’s. Older traditions were also honoured, such as the divot stomp.
To find out more about Polo for Heart, visit their website at www. poloforheart.org, and to inquire about volunteering at the event, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Heart & Stroke Foundation, visit www.heartandstroke.on.ca. To find out more about the Southlake Foundation, visit www. southlakefoundation.ca.