Annual Paul Ribeiro Memorial Games set for Aug. 13
Event features sports, food and more to raise money for local special needs community
On Aug. 13, athletes of all ages and abilities will converge on a 14.5-acre property in Port Tobacco to commemorate one avid sports player. The event will benefit individuals with special needs throughout the community.
The Fourth Annual Paul Ribeiro Memorial Games came about after the death of Port Tobacco resident Paul Ribeiro, as his family sought a way to honor his memory while also providing for those with special needs in the community.
“We hope to grow each year and support the special needs community, because there are a lot of needs … out there,” said Sandy Ribeiro, Paul’s mother. “There are so many issues that we hope we can help with.”
This year, the funds raised from the event will go to support the Special Olympics and La Plata nonprofit Spring Dell Center, which works to connect people with disabilities to the community and employment.
Paul was diagnosed with a seizure disorder when he was 5 years old, his mother said. Over time, the seizures worsened.
“As he got older, and moved through puberty, they got worse. Things that Paul had been able to do, he was no longer able to do,” his mother said.
She said that when Paul graduated from Maurice J. McDonough High School, he wanted what most young people his age wanted: a job, increased independence, a family.
“He wanted to get married, he wanted to have a job, everything, and so we were trying to help him have everything he wanted,” Sandy Ribeiro said.
His seizure disorder made employment difficult, but Paul worked with the Spring Dell Center to try and find a job.
“Paul expressed every day, ‘I want a job, I want a job, I want a job.’ He didn’t look at his seizures as interference, he looked at himself as someone who was capable of doing anything he chose to do,” said Tina Sheff, Spring Dell Center’s job development coordinator.
Sheff said Paul was particularly interested in working retail.
“He loved to talk to people. Paul was a person who could convince you to buy anything,” Sheff said. “He didn’t let anything stop him. If he had a seizure, he’d get up and tr y again.”
Paul’s mother said her son was active in the Knights of Columbus, becoming a second degree knight, and that his Catholic faith was always very important to him.
Paul also loved playing sports — particularly bocce, swimming, basketball, baseball and soccer — and participated in the Special Olympics. He was a gold medalist in the Charles County Special Olympics, Sandy Ribeiro said.
Paul died four years ago at the age of 26 following a particularly bad seizure. The following year, his family decided to hold an event to celebrate the sports that he loved so much, his mother said.
Paul’s sister Michelle Tameling said last year’s event was attended by approximately 150 people, and the games are open both to people with and without disabilities.
“Sometimes in the ‘normal’ world, [people with disabilities] are treated different. But here, everyone’s the same,” Tameling said. “No one is treated different; everyone’s here to have fun.”
Paul’s mother said it is great to see how the event has grown with each passing year. This year, the family organization received its 501(c)3 nonprofit status.
“It’s all about getting together and having a great time. It’s a lot of, lot of fun,” Tameling said. “Even people who just come out to watch, they have fun.”
STAFF PHOTO BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU Sandy Ribeiro, Tina Sheff of the Spring Dell Center in La Plata and Michelle Tameling hold the new banner for the Annual Paul Ribeiro Games, which take place Aug. 13 in Port Tobacco.