POLO FOR HEART Horses, Hats & History

SHE Canada - - HANDY HOUSEHOLD REVIEWS - By Sut­ton Raponi

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 polo­for­heart@hot­mail.com. 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.

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