Annual event grooves on despite loss of leader

SOLANA BEACH — As it has since its inception, the annual Team Godfather fundraiser at the Belly Up Tavern promises to provide extraordinary entertainment, nonstop surprises, phenomenal prizes and an incredible silent auction to raise money for the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS and Lou Gehrig’s disease. 

Different this year is that Mike Ramirez, the organization’s co-founder and inspirational leader, won’t be on hand to personally thank all those who have helped make the event a success.

At age 56, Ramirez passed away in April, less than three years after learning he had the progressive disorder that causes permanent paralysis and destroys nerve cells that control voluntary muscle movement.

But the “Godfather,” a name he acquired from his poker buddies, would still want everyone to have a great time as that was one of the goals when he and his family and friends founded the Team Godfather Charitable Foundation about a month after he received the diagnosis in September 2009.

“We want to raise money for a cure, increase awareness of the disease and provide support for anyone dealing with ALS,” he said. “And we had to have fun in the process.”

Not wanting to be the “poster boy for the disease,” Ramirez vowed early on not to let his wife, Maureen, and their two children, Michael and Colleen, watch him suffer defeat.

He said he prayed for courage and strength and saw it as an opportunity to spend time with family and friends.

He also did some traveling.

“The doctors said I have maybe two years to live,” Ramirez said. “They didn’t say I have two years to die.”

The third annual event, billed this year as Groovin’ for a Cure, will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 23. The cost is $100 and includes appetizers, two drink tickets and a concert by Pine Mountain Logs.

Visit teamgodfather.org for tickets or more information. Tickets are also available from Belly Up Tavern.

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