Polo matches, big ladies’ hats and carriage riding may not fill a typical Sunday afternoon. But this weekend, the public is invited to partake in such festivities while raising funds for wounded veterans.
"Although it is a huge amount of fun, people are really motivated by the cause,” said Brian Bean, of the San Francisco Commandery of the Order of St. John, an international philanthropic organization.
The San Francisco Commandery’s third annual Wounded Warriors Polo Benefit features two polo games in the afternoon and an antique carriage riding demonstration, which Bean says is a favorite among the kids.
This year will be the benefit’s second at the Menlo Circus Club in Atherton.
"We’re hoping we have success so that we have the gun powder to give significant philanthropic gifts,” said Bean, a veteran Marine artillery officer.
Veterans and people from around the Bay Area attend the event, said Bean.
"Folks can come however they feel comfortable,” said Bean. "There will be a number of wounded vets, a couple of VA therapists, people who want to help the vets and people who want to support the vets.”
All money raised from the benefit will go to the California Veterans Foundation, Quality of Life Plus and the new Trail Rides for Heroes program in San Mateo.
Trail Rides for Heroes
Trail Rides for Heroes is a new project of the Community Horse Advocacy Program (CHAPS) that sponsors veterans to go out on trail rides in Wunderlich Park in Woodside.
"I’m a passionate equestrian,” said Don Pugh, a disabled Vietnam veteran and member of CHAPS. "This [program] gives [vets] the chance to be out in the woods with a horse.”
Pugh described a young female veteran who had endured the traumas of war and was smiling the whole time she rode a horse. "It was the simple gentle walk of the horse,” said Pugh.
CHAPS began its weekly trail rides with veterans just a few months ago, after a memorandum of understanding was signed with the Palo Alto Veteran’s Administration Hospital. The Palo Alto VA refers patients to CHAPS for recreational therapy.
"[The program] is for the guys and gals to enjoy themselves,” said Pugh.
Quality of Life Plus
Another beneficiary of the Wounded Warriors Polo Benefit is Quality of Life Plus (QL+), a program that works with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo engineering students to create tools for disabled veterans.
"We try to put a little plus in their lives, whether it be recreation, mobility or employment,” said Bill Kuhn, QL+ director of administration.
Cal Poly students are currently working on helping a veteran who lost both his legs to play hockey again.
"We have developed a prosthetic hockey skate and prosthetic hockey gear so that he can play again,” said Kuhn.
Finding meaningful employment can be especially hard for disabled veterans, and QL+ looks for ways enabled these veterans to have more job opportunities.
QL+ is working on a machine that can lift a disabled person into the cab of a backhoe, for example.
Students also came up with an idea for a new kind of knife.
"We’ve got vets who have lost fingers through explosions,” said Kuhn. "If you’ve lost a finger, you can’t order a steak and cut it yourself.”
Polo games and more
Sunday’s event will include an opening ceremony with veteran color guards, two polo games, a ladies’ hat competition, wine tasting, an antique carriage riding demonstration and a silent auction.