Bright pink wraps swathed the back legs of six horses as they thundered down the field at the Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. Horse Complex Sunday, kicking off one of the state’s first joint polo and breast cancer awareness events.
The charity event, which was expected to raise thousands of dollars for a N.C. affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, was a culmination of eight months of collaboration among teens and adults, mothers and daughters, and polo and breast cancer organizations.
“We love it,” said Pam Kohl, executive direction of Susan G. Komen North Carolina Triangle to the Coast and a five-year cancer survivor. “It’s brand new for us, so we are totally excited about it and particularly engaging moms and their daughters around the issue.”
Hosts for the event were Teens for the Cure, a 3-year-old local affiliate founded by Lisa and Lily Sykes, a Raleigh mother and daughter. The Triangle Area Polo Club provided the players – a face-off between one youth team and one adult team.
Many of the more than 150 attendees had never seen a polo match before. Some went because they loved horses and others wanted to support local breast cancer awareness efforts.
“(Susan G.) Komen is all about grassroots efforts and that everybody can make a difference,” said Kimberly Blackwell, a Duke University School of Medicine professor and a Komen Scholar. “I can’t think of a better merger of horses and philanthropic efforts.”
Blackwell, along with Lily Sykes’ 12-year-old sister Nora, who rides horses, was the inspiration behind the charity polo match.
“(Blackwell) is a Morgan horse fanatic so we thought there was no better way to combine horses and cancer,” Lily Sykes said.
The mother-and-daughter team expect the charity polo match to be their largest fundraiser yet for the local Teens for the Cure affiliate. Lisa Sykes’ mother, Betty, died from breast cancer at 48, when Lisa was 17.
The Sykes created the organization after being inspired by a New York-based Teens for the Cure. They have put together numerous charity events, including fashion shows and bake sales, raising about $32,000. These dollars go toward local efforts, including research and funding mammograms for women who can’t afford them.
“Without events like this, we really couldn’t go to work today and make major discoveries,” Blackwell said. “More recently, there has been a real tide change. Susan G. Komen is really out to find a cure for breast cancer. We’re not just going to keep talking about a cure. We’re going to find a cure in our lifetime.”
Lisa Sykes said the organization will continue to hold fundraising events and hoped to host the charity polo match again. Through these events and the work of the group, she hopes to provide support for teens whose family members have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
“We’ve been able to do this with the help of a lot of moms and daughters and sons,” she said. “It takes a group of people to make it a success.”
To learn more about Teens for the Cure, visit bit.ly/1UWmZqB.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-469-2608: @KTrogdon