Polo on the Plains

Horsing around to help grieving children

WRITTEN BY LAURA RODDY

Polo may be known as the sport of kings, but one Wichita nonprofit is hoping the spectators are the ones who feel like royalty this June.

Kidzcope, which provides peer support for grieving children and their families, is holding its first Polo on the Plains fundraiser on June 14 at the Fairfield Polo Club in Haysville.

Wichitan Sheila Tigert, who is among the event organizers, wants Polo on the Plains guests to feel pampered. Guests are encouraged to wear hats — in hopes of being deemed most dapper by local celebrity judges — and their photos will be taken Hollywood style to start the day. In addition to enjoying an array of food, beverages and live music from the Student Loans band, spectators will be encouraged to sip champagne as they participate in the polo tradition of stomping divots on the field between periods of play.

Tigert and her husband, Joe, began supporting Kidzcope as a natural fit for their insurance business, new York Life’s Kansas General Office. She hopes that polo, will stand out on the calendars of Wichita’s philanthropic residents as an unusual and unusually fun event.

Mike Carney, a volunteer who serves as president of the Fairfield Polo Club, says the club is eager to show off its sport for an unfamiliar audience and is happy that children will benefit, too. Fairfield Polo Club opened in 1931, making it the seventh-oldest club in the country, Carney says. There are seven or eight dedicated players in the area, plus another 10 or so professionals who come from such places as Pakistan, Argentina, Mexico and Great Britain.

And while Carney appreciates the posh atmosphere that Kidzcope is creating for Polo on the Plains, Carney says it is a misconception that polo is an unapproachable sport. “It’s very casual,” he says. “The people you see out there playing, it really is their passion.”

He says anyone who appreciates horses and competition will enjoy watching a polo match. “It’s a keen sport,” he says. “As you age, you can always buy new ‘legs.’ …I love horses, but I wouldn’t own a horse if I didn’t play polo,” Carney says. “There’s just something about being on a horse…and hitting good shots and the competition.”

It can be spectacular to watch along the sidelines, he says, as the horses gallop by at 35 miles per hour.

Elizabeth Winterbone, Kidzcope’s development director, is looking forward to Polo on the Plains as a complement to the organization’s Good Grief 5K race, held at the end of summer.

Winterbone first joined Kidzcope as a volunteer facilitator. Children 3 to 18 who have suffered a loss — sometime extremely recently and sometimes after significant time has passed — are grouped by age into support groups for eight-week sessions. they must be accompanied by adults, who also meet during that time in their own support groups.

The services are provided free, and Kidzcope’s staff consists of just two part-time employees. The organization, which was founded in 2000, relies on donations to serve grieving children and their families.

“Kids are afraid to bring up anything sad to another child,” Winterbone says. “So what happens is children suffer alone. …Most families don’t talk about death.”

Winterbone says experience has shown that after completing the program, children are sleeping better at night, their school performance improves and there is more open communication among the family members.

Art plays a big role in the children’s weekly support group sessions. One of Winterbone’s favorite projects involves creating masks.

“We all put on a face for the public to see,” she says. “the inside expresses what the things are they keep hidden.”

Winterbone knows firsthand what many of the children are feeling and experiencing. Her father was Wichita State University’s football coach, and she lost both of her parents in the 1970 crash that killed 31 people associated with the team. She wishes a similar program were available for her as a child.

Finding Kidzcope, she says “was a very healing thing. It’s something that resonates so personally for me.”

Winterbone is pleased with the positive response so far to Polo on the Plains and looks forward to fresh air and fun in the name of helping grieving children.

Polo on the Plains

2–8 p.m. | Saturday, June 14
Fairfield Polo Club | 9420 S. Broadway
$100 at poloontheplains.eventbrite.com
To benefit Kidzcope, kidzcope.org
Steering committee: Stephen Clark, II, Julie Prater, Aeramy Porter,
Sheila Tigert

 
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