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Overseas Report: Destination Jamaica

Date: Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Team Newport/USA accepted a challenge to the tropics earlier this month to rekindle an annual tradition and help support needy causes in Jamaica for a fundraising agenda of events organized by Hanover Charities and the Chukka Foundation.  For over 60 years, one love and philanthropy have converged on the island nation for Valentines weekend, creating one of the most anticipated highlights of the Caribbean calendar, the Sugar Cane Ball and the Chukka-Hanover Charities Polo Match. 

Described by European explorers as “the fairest land that eyes have beheld”, Jamaica's reputation for abundant natural beauty is rivaled equally by its art of hospitality.  A visit to the island is a special experience to look forward to again and again.

Captain Dan Keating led the team, including John Wigdahl, Minnie Keating and Chris Fragomeni to compete in the preliminaries and headline match against heavy favorites, Team Jamaica.  

A familiar welcome awaited the players at team headquarters, Toby Resort in Montego Bay, to begin training for their mission.  Top priorities were to become acquainted with the exquisite island-bred mounts being lent, and size up the competition during friendship matches at the hosts' private facilities and an official challenge from the St. Ann Polo Club on its legendary field, all generously organized by the local polo community, to the entourage of polo friends and family that journeyed from all points of the island to deliver their personal greetings! 

In addition to being privy to Jamaican breeding secrets at two of its leading champion thouroughbred facilities, there also came tests of survival on the water trampolines at Doc's Cave, balance & mineral immersion rituals rafting the Martha Brae, and body conditioning at the waters-edge, under the stars, beachside and mountain-top grilled banquets, clubhouse gatherings of the fraternal order and observances of local nightlife.  Jamaican hospitality and the ineffable shared experiences included many longtime Jamaican polo cousins and the ever-growing next generation players, adding to the spirit and camaraderie of the days spent together. 

Preparations were deemed successful, as the Newport team and supporters made a timely entrance in Casablanca theme-wear, joined in the bidding and outlasted most of the 400+ on the Round Hill dance floor to close down the 63nd annual Sugar Cane Ball to record fundraising before swimming back to Mobay. 

Confidence in hand, USA took to the field the following day in the main event of the Chukka-Hanover Charity Match double-header, facing Jamaica and a well-turned out home team crowd of supporters.  The tented entourage traveled from all points on island and beyond for the 12th annual benefit match.  Following introductions and anthems, the few USA supporters were on edge cheering a 3-0 first half lead.  After a lengthy halftime champagne pouring, USA's lead eventually gave way to a crowd-stirring series of Jamaican goals by Fabiana Byles, Shane ChinAdam Laing and John Byles for a 6-5 come from behind win for the home team. Festivities concluded with a trophy presentation, including MVP laurels to JA's John Byles  at the jubilant reception that followed.

Now more than ever, Hanover Charities’ role in community is crucial.  For more information, visit  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.  Watch the 2020 Sugarcane Ball highlights below.

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.