In 2004, Jamie Uihlein received a diagnosis that would change his life: tongue cancer.
“I’ve never had a hot flash to my knowledge,” he says. “But when I found out I had cancer, I believe I had my first one. It was a real setback. I was frazzled, to say the least, and I just wanted to get on with the cure.”
Uihlein immediately began scheduling radiation treatments, but at the advice of his family and friends, he decided instead to go to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, which is regarded as one of the leading cancer treatment centers in the country. He stayed in Houston for several months. The process was a hard time for his family, but Uihlein says it left him with a renewed sense of confidence.
When he was declared cancer-free in 2009, he decided he wanted to do something special to give back, so he and his family created Polo Under the Palms, a fundraising event that benefits MD Anderson.
“After treatment, the first thing I thought about was how I could give back,” says Uihlein. “I’m so thankful I was able to go to MD Anderson. You try to write checks to support the organizations that helped, but we also had access to polo, so I thought Polo Under the Palms would be a great way to get more people involved.”
Since its inception, the event has grown into a weeklong tournament, culminating in the final match and gala. Over the years, it has raised $950,000. This year marks the first time that the Uihlein’s own 501c3 nonprofit, Little Owl Charities Inc., will take over as the host of the event, and it is also the first time the event will benefit a local organization, the Center For Building Hope.
“Not everyone can go to Houston for two or three months,” says James Uihlein, Jamie Uihlein’s son and co-chairman of the event. “We thought it was important to include someone right here in town, and we thought the Center for Building Hope would be a great beneficiary.”
Jamie Uihlein says he has enjoyed watching the event continue to attract more people outside the polo community, and he hopes to continue repaying his gratitude to the people who helped him when he needed it most.
“It’s such a nice thing to give back,” he says. “Sometimes, it’s a lot easier to write a check, but it’s also rewarding to work at something and put together an event that will hopefully be ongoing for years to come. Being able to help organizations that can help other people and helping bring more awareness is the most rewarding part of whole benefit.”
IF YOU GO
Polo Under the Palms
When: 3 p.m. Saturday, March 8
Where: Sarasota Polo Club, 8201 Polo Club Lane
Contact: Call 928-9296
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