Polo with a purpose
Deluge doesn’t deter friends of Friars Club
BY TONI CASHNELLI
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Tickets were sold, the tent was raised, the players were pumped.
What could possibly go wrong?
The night before the 4th Annual Galloping Pig polo match, a storm that could swamp an ark swept through Wilshire Farm in Goshen, Ohio. The wind toyed with, then shredded a 400-foot-long tent, the umbrella for activities. Rain turned the polo field into a mucky mess.
At 8 p.m. planners assessed the damage. At 11 p.m. they decided, “We’re gonna make this happen,” says Jeanette Altenau, co-chair of the event. Implementing Plan B, they raised a smaller tent in a less soppy spot and moved the polo match off the treacherous field and into the barn. The match, catering, logistics, “Every aspect of the event had to be rethought.”
All this, for the love of Friars Club.
Proceeds from the Galloping Pig benefit underprivileged youth. This year, “Our goal from the start was to provide a van for Friars Club,” says Jeanette, Director of Community Relations for event co-sponsor TriHealth and a volunteer whose heart belongs to Friars.
On the dazzling day after the storm Br. Scott Obrecht, the “Friar at Friars Club”, mans a check-in table at ALP Stables, greeting arrivals oblivious to the drama behind the scenes. Br. Phil Robinette, the new Office Manager for Friars, is getting to know the people. No one seems fazed by the sight of two guys in brown robes. Guests are here to dine on barbecue, sip champagne and admire the two- and four-legged athletes.
Former Bengals linebacker Dhani Jones, co-chair with Jeanette and host of the event through his philanthropic BowTie Foundation, is a booster of both polo and Friars Club. “I’m a big fan of sports that have the same type of culture as football,” he says. “It’s the game itself, the outdoors, the atmosphere that makes polo so fantastic. Polo is an upscale sport that allows everyone to participate, to tailgate, to hang around with their families and cheer.”
As for his own involvement, “It’s the responsibility of those who’ve had good fortune to help those who maybe did not. Friars Club exposes young people to opportunities they didn’t know about. It combines academics and athletics, whites and blacks, haves and have-nots. Until those worlds coincide, you don’t have the opportunity to learn from each other.”
Those worlds coincide at the Galloping Pig. Outside the barn, women in finery suitable for the Kentucky Derby tap the toes of their boots to songs like The Sheik of Araby, performed by the Cajun group, Lagniappe. Traditionally, polo fans wear boots to “stomp divots” at halftime, replacing the dirt and clumps of grass dislodged during play. If they tried that today the mud would suck the shoes off their feet. Browsing silent auction items, they tread carefully under the tent, staying on strips of carpeting that surround the tables.
Jeanette is everywhere, hobnobbing with patrons, consulting with Dhani, patrolling the silent auction table. “We have people here from all walks of life,” she says, all drawn together for Friars Club. She recalls her first visit to the gym. “They opened the doors and opened my heart. It truly changed my life.” And meeting the friars was a bonus. “Br. Scott has been a great influence. When I’m having a bad day, Scott sends me prayers.”
A half-dozen kids wearing Friars Club t-shirts mingle with guests, politely answering questions before they dash off to run amok through the fields and barn. Handlers prepare the horses, braiding the tails so they won’t swoosh in the way of mallets and wrapping legs with Ace-style bandages. Girls in sundresses petting the steeds – “polo ponies” is a misnomer for these racing thoroughbreds – learn how the game is played.
For most, their knowledge of polo was gleaned from images of Prince Charles at play (it’s “The Sport of Kings”). Beyond that, “Everybody’s first polo match is Pretty Woman,” says Dhani, referring to the sporting scene in the popular Julia Roberts movie. “I’ve never seen a polo match,” says guest Danice Shirley, whose husband and son grew up playing ball at Friars Club. “I’m here to support them.”
Moving into the barn for the match between the Queen City Polo Club and Hickory Hall of Indianapolis, Scott shares what he knows about the sport. “It’s divided into ‘chukkers’,” four periods 7½ minutes long. Typically, teams of four square off on a 300-foot-long playing field. Today, however, they’re galloping around a 100-foot arena. Even in close quarters the acrobatics are impressive. Players holding reins in one hand lean way off the horse to smack a plastic ball toward the goal at each end, moving so fast that cameras can’t keep up.
“It’s interesting to see the interaction between jockeys and their horses,” says Mike Besl, Chair of the Board of Trustees for Friars Club, here with his family. “The horses are very athletic.”
Friars Club’s Executive Director is learning as she watches. “It’s delightful, fun, different,” says Annie Timmons, relaxing today after an evening of basketball at Friars. This all came about, she says, when “Jeanette asked me what my dream is for Friars Club.” Annie responded, “I’d love to get transportation to get kids to games. A lot of times with [inner-city] kids, that’s our biggest challenge.”
After the match ends in a tie, 8 to 8, polo fans gather outside as an artist’s rendering of the 12-passenger Friars Club van is unveiled.
Eyeing the remnants of the tent torn to pieces by last night’s storm, Mike shakes his head in admiration. “I can’t believe they pulled this off.”
Jeanette, who stayed up all night to make it happen, is relieved. “God was good to us,” she says. “This will change children’s lives.”
Mark Ligett with Abbey, unofficial guestmaster; above, St. Francis of Assisi Guest House at Mepkin Abbey; reght, A Trappist monk leads a tour of Mepkin Abbey (PHOTO FROM http://mepkinabbey.org/wordpress/)
I just returned from a week-long workshop on “Contemplative Eldering” held at Our Lady of Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina. Mepkin is a Trappist monastery, a daughter house of the Abbey of Gethsemani. It is located on 3,000 acres of some of the most beautiful land I’ve ever seen, the former plantation home of Henry and Clare Boothe Luce. The Luces were the founders of Time and Life magazines, and Clare Boothe once held the position of U.S. Ambassador to Italy. After her conversion to Catholicism in 1946, she donated her plantation home to Gethsemani in 1949 with the purpose of establishing a monastery there.
The Contemplative Eldering series at Mepkin is part of the larger Sageing of America movement. The basic premise the workshop is based upon is that “Contemplative Practice” is the only bridge into the elder years that can bring true meaning and purpose to any individual. The week was leisurely and yet packed full of information and opportunities to experience Contemplative Practice. There were lecture times in which techniques such as Centering Prayer, Mantra Prayer, Contemplative Conversation and Contemplative Walking were taught. We were also introduced to Contemplative Journaling using the technique taught by Dr. Ira Progoff. A good deal of time was spent in silent sitting and in rituals emphasizing “letting go” and forgiveness. The entire week might be looked upon as a crash course in Contemplative Prayer, Practice and Living.
Top, The chapel at St. Francis of Assisi Guest House; above right, Mepkin is on the banks of the Cooper River; above, one of 16 guest rooms
Eighteen other individuals participated in this workshop led by a team of five including one Trappist Monk, a layman, and three lay women. Throughout the week, two other teachers were very present with us: Thomas Merton and Richard Rohr! Their writings were used throughout the program. Participants came from as far away as South Africa and included couples, single folks, widows, widowers and religious, all from many different denominations and from no faith traditions, too. An amazing sense of unity emerged within the first two days, a feeling of being bonded together in something quite deep and profound.
This workshop was the introductory one in a series of eldering programs, and I am hoping to continue the series over the next couple of years. I want to encourage other friars to consider this program. The only real requirement is the need to be 60 years of age or older! I think most of us qualify!
(Learn more at: mepkinabbey.org)
Honored as Roger Bacon Icons, the Bok Brothers were in good company.JimJohn BokPrincipal Steve SchadBuddy LaRosaWes NealBron BacevichPatrick Wolterman
Pope FrancisPope John Paul II
May a new season finally begin, in which the globalized world can become a family of peoples. May we carry out our responsibility of building an authentic peace, attentive to the real needs of individuals and peoples, capable of preventing conflicts through a cooperation that triumphs over hate and overcomes barriers through encounter and dialogue. Nothing is lost when we effectively enter into dialogue. Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace. Through this gathering in Assisi, we resolutely renew our commitment to be such artisans, by the help of God, together will all men and women of good will.
It is an honor that the city that belongs to all Franciscans has been home to this gathering and time of prayer. As men dedicated to the Franciscan way, perhaps we can find ways that Pope Francis’ invitation to cooperation, dialogue, and prayer will happen in our friaries and ministries, and we can be among the “artisans” of peace.
— Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM
Send comments or questions to: email@example.com
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He's at home in the Philippines
BY FR. JEFF SCHEELER, OFM
Honored as Roger Bacon Icons, the Bok Brothers were in good company.• Brothers Jim and John Bok shared the cover of the latest issue of Roger Bacon High School’s Tradition magazine with four other distinguished graduates, all of them named Icons by their alma mater. Principal Steve Schad said of the honorees: “In every case, they have made a lasting impact on those around them through hard work, perseverance, self-discipline, strong values and a belief in something bigger than themselves.” Former Principals John and Jim are profiled in the magazine along with restaurateur Buddy LaRosa, former band director Wes Neal, former football coach Bron Bacevich, and firefighter Patrick Wolterman, who died last year in the line of duty.
Pope Francis went to Assisi on Tuesday, Sept. 20, to celebrate the World Day of Prayer for Peace. This gathering honored the 30th anniversary of the first such Assisi gathering called by Pope John Paul II in 1986. Pope Francis ended his address with this exhortation:
He's at home in the Philippines
BY FR. JEFF SCHEELER, OFM