Farm's polo match aims to score for charity

June 09, 2006|By SANDY ALEXANDER | SANDY ALEXANDER,SUN REPORTER

BUT TOMORROW WILL BE THE FIRST TIME AT THE FARM — Dr. Fred Lewis and his wife, Mary Agnes, have had horses grazing on nearly 100 green, rolling acres in Clarksville since they bought their farm 17 years ago.

But tomorrow will be the first time at the farm - and possibly ever in the county - that spectators will cheer horses and riders charging after a ball in a polo match.

The couple said a little trampled grass and playing host to several hundred visitors seemed like a small investment to raise money for Catholic Charities' Our Daily Bread, a daily hot meal program in Baltimore.

Mary Agnes Lewis has been volunteering with the organization for 22 years and hopes the Ten Oaks Cup will become an annual event that draws sponsors with large checks and individuals looking for a fun way to spend the day.

"We just figure every little bit helps," Fred Lewis added.

Fred Lewis, 80, has been a veterinarian in Howard County for more than five decades, and his wife has helped him run the business while raising 10 children. The two own the Cafe 10 coffee shop on Ten Oaks Road and a couple of thoroughbred racehorses, and keep about a dozen horses on their spread of preserved farmland.

Mary Agnes Lewis, 78, said the idea for a polo match arose during a visit from her son, Jim Lewis, a veterinarian based in Glenwood, and his friend Charlie Muldoon, both of whom are avid polo players.

Muldoon lives in Poolesville and plays polo professionally in addition to his job as a business manager. He also works with the Many Hats Institute, a charitable organization that sets up polo-oriented fundraising events, among other projects.

When Mary Agnes Lewis mentioned that she wanted to help Our Daily Bread raise money for its new building project in Baltimore, she said her son and Muldoon assured her the farm's field was big enough for a match.

The gates will open at noon tomorrow, and the match will begin at 2 p.m. A horse reining demonstration will take place during halftime.

The Iron Bridge Wine Co. will serve corporate sponsors and individuals donating $150 or more, and there will be a tent set up for those sponsors to view the match. One paddock will be set aside for tailgaters paying $100 per car, and grassy areas around the field will be available for spectators to spread out blankets and watch the event for $20. Admission is free for children younger than 10 with an adult.

"The horses are the most beautiful part of this," Muldoon said. "That's what makes it so unique. It's basically hockey on horseback. It's very physical. ... It's very dangerous. It's exciting."

Muldoon said in addition to himself and Jim Lewis, Jim Lewis' brother Ted Lewis is playing in the match, as is Muldoon's fiancee, Mara Hagan, who is a professional polo horse trainer. Four other local and international polo players will round out the two teams.

The Lewises are expecting all of their children and their spouses to attend the match, and Mary Agnes Lewis said she might enlist some of her 15 grandchildren to clear rocks from the field, among other tasks.

"She has just put in hours and hours," said Marion Connolly, director of development for the community services division of Catholic Charities. "They are just a marvelous family, and we are so blessed to have them."

Last year, volunteers served 237,200 meals at Our Daily Bread, which has been open every day for the past 25 years, said Kerrie Burch-DeLuca, Catholic Charities' director of communications. In 2005, the menu included 25,000 casseroles donated by 90 different organizations, she said.

Casseroles are the most common food donation. But more than 10 years ago, Mary Agnes Lewis heard that people might prefer a chicken dinner.

Now she organizes about 40 volunteers from St. Louis Catholic Church in Clarksville and their friends and neighbors to make chicken once a month.

"I asked people to fix pieces like they would for their family," she said.

With help from her husband, Mary Agnes Lewis packs up about 1,400 pieces of cooked chicken, many pounds of instant potatoes and vegetables and takes them to Baltimore to feed up to 700 people in a day.

"A lot of people go without food, believe it or not," Mary Agnes Lewis said. "It is a shame to think we have such a need, but we do."

She said she has stuck with the program for so long because "I feel like you see the results immediately."

Plus, she added, "You really have quite a camaraderie with the people who work with you."

Both she and her husband are looking forward to helping even more, and to having a really big party on their lawn.

Looking out over the neat fields of his farm, Fred said, "That's what we have it for, to enjoy."sandy.alexander@baltsun.com

The match will be held at 6005 Ten Oaks Road, one mile west of Route 108 in Clarksville. Information: 410-261-6761.

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