17-year-old Palm Desert High School student Selina Smith Budinger has organized a polo charity event for epilepsy research and awareness.
When Budinger was 5 years old, doctors diagnosed her with epilepsy; a brain disorder in which a person has repeated seizures over time. She never wanted people to know about her condition for fear of being treated differently, so she stayed quiet, but felt very alone.
"I didn't really know anybody that had it out here in the desert," Budinger said. "There's no support group. There's no community things that bring people with epilepsy together or for families to bring their children to talk about their experiences."
Fortunately for Selina, she grew out of her type of epilepsy. She no longer experienced the seizures, but recalling the pain of isolation made her want to change that feeling for other with epilepsy.
"I knew there were no support groups out here. I knew there was no Foundation for Epilepsy. Really anything for people with epilepsy. I was thinking why isn't there something out here for this? I guess I better start doing something for it then."
Selina did just that. With the support of her parents and brother Loren, Selina has put together a luncheon at the Empire Polo Grounds set to be held this month on March 17th to benefit epilepsy awareness and research here in the desert.
The event will be a star-studded affair, featuring Master of Ceremonies actor William Devane.
"We are having a lovely luncheon," said Devane. "A silent auction and a really nice polo match on St. Patrick's Day. So come out and wear green!"
He also said people can expect an action packed game and phenomenal announcer.
Planning the event made Selina realize she wasn't so alone: "Many people I've called and told about the event have said, 'Oh, I have a cousin or a friend or co-worker or my mom or dad has epilepsy.' Almost every person I've called has known someone with epilepsy, which is kind of scary to see, how common it is, but no one is doing anything about it out here."
According to Susan Pietsch Escueta of the Epilepsy Foundation in Los Angeles, approximately 3 million Americans live with epilepsy.
The Polo For Hope event is just one small step on a long journey to make things happen here in the desert, but if anyone can do it, it's Selina Budinger:
"Whatever you want to do in your life, you can do, as long as you have the will to do it and really commit yourself."
In April, Selina will appear before congress in Washington, D.C., to appeal for more funding for epilepsy research and support.
For more information and tickets you can go to www.poloforhope.org