“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.
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, who 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.
“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.”