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Mullikin Law Firm, BlueCross BlueShield on board for Carolina Cup

Posted: November 30, 2017 4:04 p.m.
Updated: December 1, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

CAROLINA CUP INTERIM Executive Director John Cuhman (center) welcomed Tom Mullikin (left) and Joe Sullivan into the fold as the Mullikin Law Firm and BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina signed on as sponsors for the March 31, 2108, running of the Carolina Cup Steeplechase Races.

Proving the old adage that there is no place like home still holds water, the Camden-based Mullikin Law Firm and BlueCross Blue Shield of South Carolina have helped get the ball rolling as the two firms joined with the Carolina Cup Steeplechase Races as sponsors for the 2018 edition of the event.

The 84th running of the Camden spring classic, featuring a one-day, Camden-record purse of $325,000, will be held Saturday, March 31, 2018, at the historic Springdale Race Course.

The Mullikin Law Firm will serve as the presenting sponsor of the races for the second consecutive year. BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina will sponsor the Turf Club and will be the presenting sponsor for the afternoon’s $40,000 Life’s Illusion, a two-mile Filly and Mare Hurdle Stakes.

On a day during which phones inside the Carolina Cup office were constantly ringing with patrons seeking to secure their reserved parking spaces, interim Carolina Cup Executive Director John Cushman was beaming as he made the news of the two sponsors public. Better yet, said the retired four-time National Steeplechase Association leading rider, the two sponsors are hometown entities.

“These are the kind of sponsors that we hope to have at this event,” Cushman said. “The nice thing is that they set the tone; they make it a lot easier when we’ve got to visit other (prospective) sponsors and we can say that we have BlueCross BlueShield and that we have the Mullikin Law Firm involved with our races. It opens the door for us. It sets a good standard.

“They have both been here in the past and I was delighted to hear that they wanted to stay involved. We’re off to a good start. We have a ways to go, but this is a good beginning.”

Tom Mullikin, who along with his wife, Virginia Ann, are the two managing partners of their law firm, headquartered along Broad Street in Camden, said continuing to be affiliated with the races in his hometown makes good sense for his business and its community.

“Last year was a tremendous success for the community and we want to do this for as long as they will have us as a participating sponsor,” Mullikin said on Monday, while on the grounds of the National Steeplechase Museum. “We want to help. We love the experience and it’s great for the community and for our state. We have always enjoyed our time out here at the races.”

Local, state and civic pride also led to BlueCross BlueShield, which maintains an office and staff housed in what was home to the former Joseph Kershaw Academy and located a stone’s throw from the race course, were the reasons it came on board. Camden resident Joe Sullivan, who retired in his capacity as the chief executive officer at BlueCross BlueShield in 1992 after 21 years at his former post, said the organization is committed to the Palmetto State and all the residents which it serves.

“Our company loves to support all things that are important to South Carolina,” Sullivan said. “We’re a South Carolina company and we believe in everything they do. We’re the only ones who provide reasonable health care to people in South Carolina. We try to do that, as we have for 70 years, and we plan to continue to do that.”

Both Mullikin and Sullivan, who have been regular patrons at Camden steeplechase meets, expressed their disappointment when they heard the news last spring that the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup Races, a 47-year fall fixture in Camden, was being shuttered due to financial difficulties. The Carolina Cup Racing Association turned that news into a positive in combining the two events and adding the $150,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup feature chase to headline the six-race Carolina Cup card.

“I think it’s great,” Mullikin said of the changes coming to the Carolina Cup. “Naturally, I think people were a little anxious about losing the fall race, but, by combining them, it will allow us to combine our time and our resources as a community. I think the community has come together in supporting this idea and that it will be doubly good; it will help make up for whatever we lost in the fall.”

Sullivan said he has been an ardent supporter and fan of the races, while adding he does not have a horseman’s insight as to the sport of chasing. That being said, there is nothing like an afternoon at Springdale watching the four- and two-legged athletes perform on a grand stage. 

“It’s just a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon, watching these animals go over these jumps,” he said. “It’s spectacular.”

The return of Cushman onto the scene, which comes 17 years after he stepped down as the race director of the Carolina Cup and Colonial Cup races in 2000 following a 10-year run, has re-invigorated the community and the race meeting. In just a few short months on the job, Cushman has made and continues to make sweeping changes in order to restore the Carolina Cup to its past luster.

One of the first things Cushman set out to do was attract sponsors to the event. In the Mullikin Law Firm and with BlueCross BlueShield, he has his first set of building blocks.

“They see the value of the event to the local community and they embrace it. That’s what we want,” he said of the two sponsors. “We want our partners to get involved. We try to help them with what they’re trying to do and they are certainly a big help to us.”

“John and his staff have injected a lot of new and positive energy to the races,” Mullikin said of Cushman and his fellow employees. “The community continues to come together; we all came together last year to have one coordinated effort between Camden, the county and really, the state. The governor (who attended last spring’s races and handed out the Carolina Cup trophy) was a big help last year.”

Given the expertise of the Cushman and the staff at Springdale, Sullivan said it relieves any stress that sponsors may have as to being associated with the Carolina Cup and what they need to do either before or, on race day itself.

“It runs itself,” he said of the event and the Carolina Cup staff. “They do a great job of running it and making it look good for all of us. 

“I just love everything about the Carolina Cup. I miss the Colonial Cup, I’ll tell you that. In any event, let’s make sure that we don’t lose the Carolina Cup. It’s critical to the state and to Camden.”

Carolina Cup update: Today is the final day for last year’s Carolina Cup reserved parking spaceholders to secure their former spots for the 2018 races. Patrons who had spaces for the 2016 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup will be next in line and will have until Monday, Jan. 8, 2018 to place their orders before sales are open to the general public.

Monday was a strong day for sales, with several calls from organizations looking to book their spaces in College Park started to roll in. It has been a strong start in sales for an event which, at this time of year, is usually not at the top of priority lists.

“We’re four months out and are ticket sales are outstanding,” Cushman said. “We have some meetings coming up with more sponsors. We’re off to a good start.”


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