Lakewood Ranch teens combine to plan the Well Wishes Benefit Polo Match at the Sarasota Polo Club to raise funds to build wells in Africa.
Ian Campbell, a 6-foot-3 junior at Cardinal Mooney High who plays both football and lacrosse, knows it's difficult to focus in class when you are hungry.
Imagine how hard it is for students in Zambia to study when they live with hunger every day.
Campbell, who lives in the Polo Club in Lakewood Ranch, has seen the effects of poverty often when he travels with his family to Africa. His father, Stuart Campbell, was born in South Africa while his mom, Victoria Campbell, was born in Zimbabwe.
So Ian Campbell was glad his sister, Pippa Campbell, organized the Well Wishes Benefit Polo Match on March 16, 2019. The match raised $5,000 that went toward building two wells in the villages of Siandunda and Komanyana, Zambia.
Pippa Campbell, then a junior at Lakewood Ranch High, had joined with Jaymie Klauber, the owner of Epic Equine Experiences and the Epic Polo Club in Sarasota County. She said Klauber was "extraordinarily helpful" and she learned a lot about hosting a benefit from her. They turned over the money to the villages and two months later, the wells were completed and supplying much-needed water.
"A little money goes a long ways there," Victoria Campbell said. "I can't believe how grateful they were."
Last summer, Ian Campbell started to wonder whether Well Wishes could become an annual event. He decided to organize the 2020 event, this time at the Sarasota Polo Club. It is scheduled for 3 p.m., Dec. 30.
He is getting help from his sister, who now is attending Florida State, along with his cousins, 17-year-old Ben Cottrez and 15-year-old Sophie Cottrez. Their mom, Sarah, is Victoria Campbell's sister, and the family, including husband Vincent, live in East County. It was Sarah Cottrez's friend, Annabel Hughes-Aston, who told them about the villagers plight in Zambia and who handled the funds after the 2019 event.
Although the area is suffering from the pandemic, Ian Campbell didn't want to wait to host another Well Wishes.
"I saw the women walking miles carrying buckets on their head," Ian Campbell said of his trips to Africa. "I saw how dirty the drinking water was there."
Like their father, a professional polo player and instructor, Ian and Pippa Campbell both play polo. While Pippa won't be playing in the Well Wishes event, Ian Campbell will.
Sarasota Polo Club players such as Brent Hamill and Wadi Gomero-Cure already have signed up to play. The event will have 90 tailgating spots (8-10 fans per spot) at $100.
Ben Cottrez said the possibility of doubling the 2019 funds is exciting.
"We're trying to raise $10,000 and that will pay for well systems and irrigation systems that would allow the people to grow their own crops," he said. "It would allow them to farm more area."
Like the Campbells, the Cottrez family takes trips to Africa as well.
"It was eye-opening," Ben Cottrez said. "You can see the cultural differences and they don't have as much leisure time for fun. But they are also so much more thankful for everything they have."
Sophie Cottrez said it was amazing how thankful everyone was even though they were living in poverty. She said more wells and irrigation will empower the villagers.
The four teens are thinking of other ideas to make the event a success. Sophie Cottrez has suggested having a New Year's Eve theme for tailgating. They are lining up food trucks. Halftime events are being planned.
Ian Campbell cleared the event with Sarasota Polo Club owner James Miller, who was happy to help, in July.
They also stressed that people who can't attend the event can donate. Get information at 352-446-4758.
Eventually, all four teens said they want to see more photos from Africa of villagers standing next to their new wells.
"It's such an amazing feeling," Pippa Campbell said. "And it's an inspiration."