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 A King's Sport for Alzheimer's Cure

Polo Match Promotes Disease Awareness

By Bernice Paglia

Staff Writer

 

 

Hillsborough - Janet Gambill's

mother sensed something wrong and sought the help of her family and the medical profession before her Alzheimer's symptoms advanced. 

     But Gambill and others who helped put together the Alzheimer Polo Classic, a benefit polo match, for Saturday are concerned about as many as 150,000 people in Central and North New Jersey - half the estimated number affected by the condition - who remain undiagnosed.

     The organization tries to raise public awareness about Alzheimer's while supporting programs and services for those affected.

     Gambill was gratified to learn Saturday's event was the most successful so far in raising funds for the Alzheimer's Association's Greater New Jersey Chapter, of which she is president.

     Event co-chairman William C. Sheldon said the event raised $350,000. Sheldon is president of Eisai, a pharmaceutical firm that was one of 16 sponsors for the polo match. Sheldon and Gambill said education and support for caregivers of persons with Alzheimer's are as much a concern as getting help for the patient. It has a "Safe Return" program with identification items linked to a national database so a wandering patient can be returned home, and the group also lobbies legislators to get increased funding for research.

     The benefit polo match took place at Hillsborough Country Club with billowy white tents on two sides of the playing field, which organizers said was three times the size of a football field. Each tent had a

unique array of catered food and drinks and offered a respite from the extreme heat and humidity that produced a shimmering haze over the landscape.

     Polo players from as far as Argentina took part in the match, with teams sponsored by Jaguar cars and MFP Investors. The event also featured a tailgate contest and a hot air balloon launch at dusk.

     Spectators Rachelle Denis and Michele Bercaro of Hillsborough were enjoying their first polo match.

     "I'm really excited," Denis said. "It's great."

     Denis got a quick education on the game from the event's journal, which de-mystified terms like "chukker" and "neckshot." It also contained a 30-page guide on Alzheimer's and resources to address it.

     Event volunteer Maureen Ehret honored polo tradition by

wearing a classic flowered hat as she whizzed around on an electric cart, trekking visitors to the parking area.

     "It's natural straw," she said, adding that the cluster of flowers had a rose in the middle.

"This has that polo look about it," she said.