An­nual Paul Ribeiro Me­mo­rial Games set for Aug. 13

Event fea­tures sports, food and more to raise money for lo­cal spe­cial needs com­mu­nity

Maryland Independent - - News - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­ Twit­ter: @JamieACIndyNews

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.

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