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Overseas Report: Destination Jamaica

Date:    Friday, March 13, 2020

Team USA dutifully accepted a challenge to the tropics in February to support needy causes in Jamaica during a fundraising agenda of Rio Carnival themed events organized by Hanover Charities and the Chukka Foundation.  Every year on President's weekend, organizers in Jamaica create one of the biggest draws of the Caribean social calendar, including the Sugar Cane Ball and the Chukka-Hanover Charities Polo Match. 

Captain Dan Keating led the team, including John Wigdahl, Connor Deal and Pedro Lara to compete in the headline match against Jamaica.  

The players received a warm welcome to picturesque Montego Bay by long-time Jamaican players at team headquarters, Toby's Resort, to begin team training for the featured weekend of events.  The USA squad was given the chance to get acquainted with borrowed mounts and size up the competition during friendship games on the world renown St. Ann field, as well at player's polo farms in the days leading up to gameday, generously organized by the local polo community. 

The team trained for speed and agility in the waterfalls of Dunnes River, practiced chi and immersion while rafting the Martha Brae, limbered & stretched before water aerobics at Doc's Cave, Frenchman's Cove, Blue Lagoon, and Tammy's Cabana Club.  Qualify of Life training consumed the evenings with encore birthday dinners, mountain-top retreat buffets, clubhouse gatherings of the fraternal order and of course local nightlife observances.  Sparkling weather and pleasant breezes underscored the Jamaican hospitality, adding to the spirit and camaraderie of the days spent together with longtime Jamaican comrades. 

Preparations were deemed successful, as the Newport team and entourage were among the most photographed of the evening and outlasted most of the 400+ on the Round Hill dance floor to close down the 62nd annual Sugar Cane Ball before swimming back to Mobay.  Confidence in hand, USA took to the field the following day as the main event in the Chukka-Hanover Charity Match against Jamaica.  The tented entourage traveled from all points on island and beyond for the 11th annual benefit match.  The match was exceptionally close, as USA's early lead eventually gave way to a crowd-pleasing series of lead changes with the favored hometeam brothers Shane and Kurt Chin, Hamish Wates and Zackary Byles. The challenger's teamwork and determination held the lead in the homestretch with 3 minutes left, only to ignite a Jamaican rally that would tie, then overtake the Americans for the likely win, until a 14th second tying goal brought the battle to an end, decided as a draw.  Festivities concluded with a trophy presentation, including MVP laurels to USA's John Wigdahl and MID award to Connor Deal at the jubilant reception that followed.

The Sugar Cane Ball is truly a don’t-miss-it event on the international social calendar. The black-tie event drew socialites, ambassadors, celebrities, and business leaders from the United States, Europe and Jamaica, in hopes of exceeding last year's $600,000 effort.  Hanover Charities has announced its 2021 events, including its annual ball on Feb. 13, 2021.  

 Click to see an album of photos from the overseas reporter.  

The ever-popular Jamaican Polo Team will return to Newport on August 22, 2020 for the annual USA vs. Jamaica match followed by the Jamaican Jerk Grill Après Polo celebration during the Newport International Polo Series.  Reservations will open on March 15.

Hanover Charities is the largest non-profit, 501c3 organization in Western Jamaica. Celebrating the Diamond Jubilee in 2017, Hanover Charities has invested millions of US$ to the parish of Hanover in a wide range of projects for its citizens from the very young to seniors. Funds generated from the weekend’s events go towards the foundation’s several initiatives including implementing programs to feed children, the elderly and the indigent, funding health clinics, supporting organizations that promote positive values and education for children, and contributing to scholarships for deserving local students.

The Chukka Foundation is dedicated to achieving immediate and lasting changes to the lives of children, youth and families in their local communities. Empowering through education, scholarships and improving lives and offering our philanthropic support. The Chukka Foundation also promotes responsible and compassionate care towards animal welfare.  Over the past ten years, the Foundation has assisted with offering scholarships, improving classrooms, assisting schools, environmental projects, animal welfare and scholarships for local students.