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Ponying Up for Spinal Research

July 22, 1997|KATHRYN BOLD

The event: Piaget Christopher Reeve Polo Classic, a polo match and elegant ringside luncheon held Saturday at the Oaks Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park, Joan Irvine Smith's sprawling polo field in San Juan Capistrano. The match raised funds for the Reeve-Irvine Research Center at the UCI College of Medicine, which studies and treats spinal-cord injuries.

Horsey set: About 300 guests gathered under a long tent to enjoy a steak-and-salmon luncheon served on fine china while watching players and their ponies race back and forth on the green.

Actor Christopher Reeve, who was paralyzed in a horseback riding accident, sent guests a videotaped message thanking them for attending.

Polo and picnic: Polo fans parked their cars in reserved tailgate-spaces across the field, set up elaborate picnics and watched the game from fold-out chairs.

"Polo is a soccer game on horses," said guest Chuck Tozzer of Irvine.

"This is about the best polo you'll get south of Santa Barbara," said Harvey Smith, a Laguna Beach resident. Smith played polo for more than 40 years "and I have the scar on my shoulder to prove it."

Quote: "This event will help the Reeve-Irvine center bring researchers together and buy equipment," said Dr. Tom Cesario, dean of the UCI College of Medicine. "Maybe with a concerted effort we can get some improved function for people with spinal-cord injuries. Of course, everybody's goal is for a cure."

Bottom line: Proceeds from the $200-per-person VIP luncheon, $75-per-car tailgate fees and donations were expected to net about $15,000 for the Reeve-Irvine center, which was established in 1996 by UCI, Irvine Smith, Reeve and the American Paralysis Assn.

Faces: Next to polo, people-watching was the day's main event. Among the VIPs were Jerry Mathers, star of "Leave It to Beaver"; Irvine Smith; UCI Chancellor Laurel Wilkening; Robert and Margaret Sprague; John Herklotz; Richard and Karen Nichol; Alvin and Rosalie Glasky; Kim Devore; Louise Farr; Patti Hansen; Kurt Jagel and Carole Willner; Melanie McAllister; Tom and K.C. Lanagan; Joe and Daracie Volpe; and Claudine Walese.

What's ahead: An Evening Under the Stars and a Day at the Oaks International With Christopher Reeve and Joan Irvine Smith, Sept. 13 and 14, and dedication of the William J. Gillespie Neuroscience Research Facility, site of the Reeve-Irvine center, at UCI on Sept. 12. For information, call Diana Atkins: (714) 824-6246.

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