- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 3, 2002

If anyone ever doubted the level of Anglophilia among Washingtonians and the friendly competitiveness that inevitably bubbles up between two close-knit countries they'd need to look no further than Thursday night's benefit for the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH).
Hosted at the residence of British Ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer and his wife, Lady (Catherine) Meyer, the reception attracted the area's diplomatic, business and horsy sets and served as a mood-setting precursor to Saturday's Range Rover International Polo Classic at the estate of Stephen Seager in The Plains, Va. (That event featured a "just-for-fun" match between the United States and England, Jack Russell terrier races, lots of champagne and fancy hats.)
Thursday's stormy gathering a powerful passing gale blew down a tree that temporarily blocked the embassy's Massachusetts Avenue NW driveway included Finnish Ambassador Jukka Valtasaari, Argentine Ambassador Diego Guelar, Tandy Dickerson, Suzanne Cooke, Joe Muldoon and Range Rover President Mike O'Driscoll.
Co-chairwoman Sydney "Nini" Ferguson said she expected that ticket sales (at $200 apiece) and corporate sponsorship would gross at least $150,000 for the NRH, which clearly hopes the polo party will turn into an annual affair.
Donations will help fund a cutting-edge Web site (nrhhealthtown.com) that will, when it is introduced in September, allow rehabilitation patients to get their medical information and health consultations online.
NRH assists people with significant disabilities or serious injuries, noted Edward Eckenhoff, the hospital's founder, president and chief executive, who suffered a spinal-cord injury in a car accident 40 years ago. Donations from the polo event are also earmarked for an endowed chair in rehabilitation medicine and clinical research.
Land Rover, the British car company that makes Range Rovers and is now, as Ambassador Meyer mentioned with mock resignation, owned by Ford, gave $65,000 to the cause.
Thanks in large part to Americans, who do like their sport utility vehicles.
Yanks not to the manor born may be ignorant about polo, but it is not a sport that comes second-nature to most Englishmen, either. Ambassador Meyer made sure to take note of his own "enormous fear of large animals with four legs," a terror, he half-joked, that may stem from his childhood memories of being "attacked by a llama at the London Zoo."
Lt. Col. Peter R. L. Hunter, the embassy's New York-based deputy military adviser and the British team captain, explained that British soldiers do, however, make good polo players. In order to win, he said, "You've got to be brave, you've got to be fit, you've got to be quick-thinking."
They weren't brave/fit/quick enough on Saturday, though: The Brits ended up losing to the Americans, 8-6.
Christina Ianzito


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