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Polo player makes boy's dream come true

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Brandon Phillips and Bruce SteinbergPolo player makes a boy’s dream come true

Story by Alex Webbe Photography by Liz Lamont

The sport of polo has historically embraced charitable causes and continued to display

a sense of community responsibility, but then there are a number of causes that

resonate within the polo community, and touch players’ lives.  Such was the case of 5-

goal polo star Brandon Phillips.

On Sunday, June 7, 1992, fourteen-year-old Brandon Philips awoke with severe

swelling in his right leg.  He had played a rugby match two days earlier and soccer

the day before, and assumed that the swelling was sports-related.  When the swelling

failed to subside, a medical examination revealed a grapefruit-sized tumor wrapped

around Phillips’ ureter (the tube that connects the kidneys with the bladder).  Following

a biopsy, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  Although his parents didn’t

tell him at the time, the doctors gave him six weeks to live.

His physical strength and conditioning and his positive outlook allowed the soft-spoken

Phillips to withstand months of intensive chemotherapy, and he returned to his school’s

basketball team that November.

So when he was approached by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) and asked if

he would grant a young man’s request to meet a professional athlete he enthusiastically

embraced the opportunity.

Bruce Steinberg was eight-years-old when he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic

Leukemia, and for three years he missed a week of school every month so that he could

receive treatment.  During that time, Bruce remained an inspiration for his friends and

family and a leader on his basketball team.

Bruce and his family met with Brandon Phillips at his barn the morning before a major

polo match and watched him prepare his horses for the game, then off to the Grand

Champions Polo Club where Phillips was playing for the Piaget polo team in the finals of

the USPA Eastern Challenge.

Phillips had scored seven goals in the team’s previous game, lifting them to a 9-7 win,

but the finals would prove to be much more difficult, and Bruce and his family cheered

enthusiastically from the sidelines.

Phillips scored the first goal of the game and went on to score two more goals in the

course of the game but an Audi goal in the final four seconds of play gave the game to

Audi, 8-7.

“I loved it,” beamed Bruce Steinberg, following the game.  “I loved the horses, the

teamwork, everything,” he said.

As for the loss, Phillips just smiled.

“There’s always another day,” he said.  “The secret is to never give up, never quit,” he

offered.  “It’s a lot like life,” he said, “you give it everything you’ve got, you never give

up.”

And that’s the philosophy that brought him to where he is today, one of the game’s top

players, and a big supporter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

“Approximately every four minutes someone new is diagnosed with blood cancer,” said

Pamela Payne, the Executive Director of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in Palm

Beach County, “and approximately every 10 minutes, someone dies.  The Leukemia &

Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the world’s largest voluntary health organization dedicated

to funding blood cancer research and providing education and patient services,” she

added.  “Our mission is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma,

and improve the quality of life of patients and their families,” she added.  “To see

survivors like Brandon and Bruce continues to fuel hope for future victories.”

Bruce posed with the players, sat on a horse and awarded trophies at the end of the

tournament, with Phillips seeing a bit of himself in the young man.  

Never give up.  Never quit.