If you walked the Bridgestone Arena concourse on Thursday night you would have seen Disney’s Frozen playing on the televisions, a holiday buffet, a magician’s stage, Santa, Gnash and colorfully wrapped packages lining the walls. As you may have imagined, this wasn’t a normal Thursday at the Arena, it was a special one, as Nashville Predators forward Mike Ribeiro and his family joined with the Nashville Predators Foundation to host the Foundation’s annual Holiday Party.
Each year, families in need, who are nominated by local non-profits, are invited by the Predators Foundation to take part in the special Holiday Party. Leading up to the event, the families compile lists of wants and needs, everything from coats and scarves to sporting equipment and cooking supplies that the Preds players and staff then purchase as gifts for the families.
On Thursday, in addition to receiving their gifts, the party guests were treated to a turkey dinner with all the fixings, delicious treats, a magic show and a visit from both (Santa) Gnash and the “real” Santa Claus.
Throughout the course of the night, it was a complete family affair for the Ribeiro household, who were joined by Ribeiro’s teammate Gabriel Bourque and his wife and daughter. As guests enjoyed dinner, Bourque signed autographs and his wife Kristina talked with some of the other mothers in attendance. Mike signed autographs and posed for pictures; while his wife Tamara, who assisted in event set-up and wrapping last-minute gifts, helped children find seats for the magic show; and their kids played games and passed out candy to the children (and some of the adults!) in attendance.
Ribeiro, who grew up in Montreal, Quebec, the son of Portuguese immigrants, remembers being in similar situations to the ones the kids at the Holiday Party are currently facing. Because of his background and how his career today affects the lives of his own children, getting involved in an event like the Foundation’s Holiday Party was an easy choice.
During his 15-year NHL career, Ribeiro and his family have always taken the time to purchase gifts for families in need around the holidays and support charities. But bringing his children to meet and spend time with the families at the party was a unique and special experience this year.
“It’s a nice thing for them to be able to help other kids, and us as a family, help other families,” Ribeiro said. “Just bringing smiles to those kids and enjoying the night.”
Smiles were aplenty at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday night, for everyone involved in the special event, and the Ribeiro family played a large role in that. On the ice, Ribeiro is having a successful season, playing on the team’s top line and sitting second in scoring, but it could be argued that off the ice, he’s been even more successful teaching his kids lessons that will go with them forever.
“We’re trying to keep them grounded and make them understand that not everyone lives like you,” Ribeiro said. “I want them to be humble. It doesn’t matter your race, or where you’re from, you should show respect, even at a younger age.”