Sunshine kids meet the Budweiser Clydesdales at the 'mane' event at the Sarasota Polo Club.
Millie Sica stood bolt upright, a look of shock and bewilderment dancing across her face.
Towering above her, a Budweiser Clydesdale sniffed her cap. She giggled while her mom, Melissa Sica, snapped a photo.
Millie and her family were brought to the Sarasota Polo Club March 21 to the Meet the Budweiser Clydesdales event that benefited the nonprofit organization, Sunshine Kids.
“It’s like the best day ever,” Millie said.
That’s one of the 9-year-old’s trademark sayings, but this best day ever stood out more because she saw some seriously massive horses with her family.
Melissa Sica said her daughter is fighting brain tumors and she was one of approximately 30 children with cancer who were brought to the event with the Sunshine Kids.
Janet Yon, special projects coordinator for Sunshine Kids, said events like Meet the Budweiser Clydesdales allow children who have cancer to meet other children facing similar battles. “It makes them feel like they’re normal,” Yon said. “They’re not alone.”
Yon said children with cancer lose what might be considered “normal” to another child when they’re diagnosed with cancer. Their world changes.
“They give us great and fun events all the time,” Melissa Sica said of Sunshine Kids. “It’s a distraction from everyday struggles.”
About 200 people attended the event. Ron Trytek, director of sales and marketing at the Sarasota Polo Club, said the Budweiser Clydesdales stay at the club when they’re in town.
“We just made a decision that we would try to do a behind-the-scenes style event,” he said.
As far as incorporating a nonprofit, he said, “I think it’s just in the spirit of doing good when you have the opportunity to do good.”
Rachel Wells brought her 5-year-old daughter, Charlotte. Charlotte lives in the Country Club neighborhood and is battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Her mom said Sunshine for Kids has done much for her daughter, and it helps to break the tension in between doctor’s appointments.
“She gets to feel like a normal kid,” Rachel Wells said. “No masks or anything.”
Eric Resinger, who is a Budweiser handler for the horses, said it’s nice that he and his company get to support an event like this.
To make the Budweiser Clydesdale team, each horse must be at least 4, must stand at least 18 hands and must weigh between 1,800 and 2,300 pounds. Each horse must be a bay with four stocking feet and a blaze of white on the face.
“From kids who are 5 years old to 85 years old, they like seeing the size and the power of the Clydesdales,” he said.
Artist Tom Ruthz was painting the Clydesdales at the event and planned to sell a few of his works to contribute to the fundraiser. He incorporated some of Millie’s handprints — in her favorite hot pink color — around the Clydesdale, Larusso, he was painting at the event.
“I like to help,” he said. “I would like to share my talent with the kids.”
Guests at the event were treated to food, interactions with the big horses and even a wagon ride pulled by the Sarasota Polo Club’s Clydesdales.
The ride was something Millie found exciting — even if it was a little bumpy.
But as she said, it was the “best day ever.”