Timmy Dutta. ©Alex Pacheco.
Wellington, FL – April 3, 2016 – The most highly anticipated event of the season did not disappoint on Thursday, March 31, as over 500 guests gathered at The Wanderers Club in Wellington, Florida. It was the perfect setting for sunset polo, dancing under the stars and supporting Brooke USA. The inaugural Nic Roldan’s Sunset Polo & White Party, hosted by Mark and Katherine Bellissimo, to benefit Brooke USA, set a new precedent in Wellington, earmarking the end of the 2016 equestrian season and ushering in a new era with more than $120,000 raised for working equines globally.
“We are so excited and overwhelmed by the generosity and support that was shown during this inaugural event,” Executive Director of Brooke USA, Emily Dulin, said. “We want to personally thank Mark and Katherine Bellissimo for hosting such an outstanding and successful event, and we also thank our Brooke USA ambassador, Nic Roldan, for conceptualizing this event and putting together an amazing team of hardworking volunteers.”
A thrilling polo game kicked off the inaugural event after a cocktail-hour performance by Ki-Juan Minors. Roldan, rated at 8 goals, led the Brooke USA Grey team to a 6-5 victory over Brooke USA Orange, captained by 6-goaler Kris Kampsen. Brandon Phillips (5), Timmy Dutta (0) and Ricky Mershad (0) rounded out the orange team. Justin Daniels (1), Grant Ganzi (1) and Henry Porter (1) completed the grey team.
Roldan is an official ambassador for Brooke USA, the American fundraising arm of the world’s largest international equine welfare charity, the Brooke. Brooke USA is dedicated to improving the lives of equines around the world, providing veterinary care, education, and resources to care for working horses, donkeys, and mules. Brooke USA supports the efforts of the Brooke and has worked in some of the most impoverished areas around the world for the last 80 years, helping more than 1.8 million equines and more than 10 million people who rely on these animals last year alone.
Before the game began a moment of silence was observed in memory of recently deceased polo player Bob Daniels, whose son played on the winning team. Roldan has longtime family ties to Bob Daniels. His father, Raul Roldan, played and worked for Daniels for 30 years. Nic Roldan also played many years with Daniels, reaching the 1999 U.S. Open final together as Pony Express.
The Brooke USA match was anyone’s game from start to finish, with the score frequently tied or fluctuating back and forth with a tight spread. Toby Wayman of Chukker TV announced the game, giving a play by play for the spectators.
Both teams showed amazing teamwork throughout. Daniels made the first goal of the day on an open back shot and followed up in the next chukker with a three-quarter neck shot that sailed straight through the goal posts. In the second chukker, Mershad brought the orange team to a three-point lead, with all three of his teammates assisting on the goal. Sixteen-year-old Porter made two back-to-back goals in the third chukker, tying the game at 4. In the fourth he scored again with a full-field run. Mershad made the final goal.
“I always enjoy playing in charity games, but this one was amazing,” said Kampsen. “Nic did an awesome job organizing this event for Brooke USA by incorporating some of these really talented young players we have. It was so much fun!”
For Roldan, it was clearly a labor of love. “Our goal was to create as much awareness as possible in the community about Brooke USA’s efforts. It’s a good cause, and it’s close to our hearts because we love equines,” he said. Roldan extended his thanks to the event hosts, Katherine and Mark Bellissimo, whom he said “went above and beyond” by providing the magnificent venue at The Wanderers Club and donating food and other amenities.
PoloGear USA donated the team jerseys, as well as custom saddlebags worn by miniature horses and donkeys that walked along the sidelines collecting cash donations for Brooke USA. Roldan, who came up with the idea to include the furry ambassadors, borrowed the mini-equines from his friends.
Marquez-Dulin and board member Jim Wolf presented the trophy to the winning team. The Best Playing Pony award, presented by Gil Johnston, went to Dallas, played by Phillips in the fourth chukker. Porter, the high-scorer in the game, was named Most Valuable Player.
Teeming with spectators, the sidelines were abuzz about the next Nic Roldan’s Sunset Polo & White Party, which is slated to return to Wellington in 2017. After the polo exhibition, guests moved pool-side where they enjoyed a night of dancing and drinks in their white attire. Rocco Mangel of Rocco’s Tacos emceed the event, and DJ Adam Lipson made sure everyone stayed on their feet and had a good time.
The inaugural event exceeded expectations, and during the live auction Brooke USA was able to raise enough money to build two permanent water troughs during the “Bid for a Cause.” Because of the generosity of the Bellissimos, Roldan, sponsors, guests and the hardworking committee, working equines will have improved lives and continue to become healthier, stronger and happier as they continue their crucial jobs.
“We are proud to be a part of such a special event with Nic to benefit Brooke USA and pleased that the first year was such a success,” said Katherine Bellissimo. “We look forward to making this an event that our community supports and looks forward to every year.”
Please visit www.pbiec.com or call 561-793-5867 for more information.