Polo in the Pines: Bringing Support for The James from 500 Miles Away
In 1989, Sharon Knight, a wife and mother, heard the words, “You have cancer,” for the first time. Her diagnosis of sarcoma and prognosis of just three months to live was a tremendous shock to her family. But Sharon has surprised all of her doctors and those around her as, 25 years later, she continues celebrating her life.
Sharon’s daughter, Tina Fowler, decided to put together a polo fundraiser honoring her mother as part of the Cruising for a Cause event sponsored by Tina’s company, Fowler Connection Travel Consulting. As Georgia residents, Sharon and Tina grew up around horses and share that passion with Tina’s teenage daughter and the rest of their friends and family. For that reason, they created the Polo in the Pines event at the Atlanta Regional Polo Center in Georgia.
“This event is a celebration of my mom’s life,” Tina says. Our sponsors came on board because of the connections they had to my mom. So many people are connected because of the lives she’s touched.” Tina knew that the network of individuals who were coming together to honor her mom had the potential to make a tremendous impact for cancer funding.
While in treatment for her sarcoma, Sharon sought the expertise of Raphael Pollock, MD, PhD, at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. As such, the Polo in the Pines event shifted its focus to support Dr. Pollock’s work there. Then, in September 2013, Dr. Pollock was recruited to the OSUCCC – James as the director of surgical oncology. With him, he brought an $11.5 million National Cancer Institute (NCI) grant to support collaborative sarcoma translational research, which is one of the largest NCI Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grants ever to study sarcoma. In addition, he brought with him the support of Polo in the Pines as their event beneficiary became the OSUCCC – James in 2013.
In 2013, the event also brought in a new co-director, Jen Croker, whom Tina refers to as her “Angel.” Jen lost her sister, Peyton Dergay, to sarcoma nine years ago and was looking for an outlet to honor her sister. Thankfully, a mutual friend connected Tina to Jen. With a background in hotel management and event planning, Jen brought new skills to the table for the event which raised $45,000 this year for sarcoma research at The James.
Polo in the Pines clearly showcases that cancer has no boundaries, so neither should support for the work being done in prevention and treatment. Dr. Pollock reminded attendants at the 2013 Polo in the Pines that, “Sarcoma is a dreaded disease. It affects everyone from Georgia to Ohio, coast to coast, and around the world. It has no predilection for age, race or geographic location.”
After her sister’s passing, Jen found a poem that Peyton had written, and she encourages all to live by this mantra: Don’t divide your life into weeks months or years. Rather, divide your day into moments. Then, live each moment as if it were one full life.