Single Dad Wins Super Bowl Tickets

Daddy & daughter recognized by national organization

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imageGina & Jimmy Oliveira

By Robyn Lee

Sunday is a special day for Catholic Dad, Jimmy Oliveira. Even when his daughter Gina was still very young, he started the family tradition of Sunday Mass and watching the New York Giants game. “When I was a child that was the family tradition growing up. Church and football. When my daughter was born I decided this is going to be our thing. Going to church on Sunday and watching the Giants game,” says Jimmy.


7-year-old Gina, also loves their Sundays. She asked her dad if they would continue their Sunday tradition when she had her own house. She explained, “when I’m old and you’re old and I have my own kids we can tell them that we watched the games together.” The tradition of watching football was not the only thing that Jimmy wanted to pass on to future generations — he wanted Gina to know her Catholic faith.


Jimmy said he was away from the Church for a while, but it was the birth of his daughter that brought him back. He wanted to give the faith to Gina and started attending Sunday Mass regularly. He recalls the pastor announcing at Mass that there would be a parish retreat. “The priest told us, I promise you if you come every night God will do something. That is the only reason I went, because I wanted God to do something in my life. I could say right then and there my life began to change and I was happier and less stressed.  I started giving God my problems.”


Jimmy and Gina continued to be regulars at Sunday Mass, so much so that Jimmy was asked to be an usher at the 11 a.m. Mass. He also started helping with the religious education program. “I started to be involved. My friends would ask me, why do you do this? You don’t get paid and it takes up all your time. But the only thing I’m missing out on is watching TV. I still play hockey and take my daughter where she needs to go. I’m helping someone else’s kid too. I just think we are one big family.”


Jimmy said that being Catholic is part of his identity. “I love being Catholic. Being Catholic reinforces my life. It is the spark that is the foundation of my life. God is there to protect and help guide me through everything and stay on the right path. Since I got involved in the church I’m happy. My daughter and I are closer.” Jimmy also credits the faith for helping him be a better father to his seven-year-old daughter.


It is dads like Jimmy that the National Center for Fathering wants to recognize and encourage. The National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit research and education organization based in Kansas City, held an online contest that asked fathers, their friends, and family members to submit videos as part of their efforts to promote responsible fathering. The winner would get two tickets to the Super Bowl.


Jimmy’s sister, Diana Marie Oliveira, saw the contest posted on the’s Facebook page and decided to put together a video of Jimmy and Gina. “When my sister first found out about the video she told me, ‘we have to do this. I’m telling you, you guys are so great together.’ I have to hand it to her she was the driver behind this. I have to give her all the credit.”


Diana Marie put together a video with pictures of Jimmy and Gina in Giant’s gear with Gina talking about her dad’s devotion to her. “My daddy is the best because he is the only daddy at the school on the PTA. He goes on my field trips, takes me to dance, plans my birthday parties and he even takes me to the dentist.”


When their video became one of the finalists, the family came together to help Jimmy and Gina get votes. “Even Uncle Gary who doesn’t go on the computer went on the computer to vote for our video,” says Jimmy. Everyone was hopeful, but Diana Marie was confident that their video was the best. She told her brother, “Jimmy, go watch all these videos. We have a great chance of winning. I’m telling you. Our video rocks. We are going to win.”


Meanwhile the Giants started winning too.


“I told everyone,” says Jimmy, “if the Giants make it to the super bowl and we win this contest this will be better than winning the lotto.”


Jimmy and Gina are both huge New York Giants fans who “eat, live and breathe Big Blue.” They both have their favorite players. Gina’s favorite is Victor Cruz. “I think it’s because of the salsa dance,” says Jimmy. “She is into dance. The salsa dance has her hooked.”


Jimmy’s favorite player is Eli Manning. Jimmy explained, “my daughter was born in 2004 and Eli was drafted shortly after. I always knew he was something special. I was always a believer in him. Even in 2007 when he had that bad game, I told people to give the kid a chance. Everyone has a bad game. He picks himself up and does a lot better.”  Jimmy said that Eli is a good example to him in his own life. “You can’t give up on someone. You have to give them that support and they will show you something good. Going through the bad times makes us who we are in the good times.”


Jimmy also applauds the entire Giant’s organization. “I think the coach is great. Bradshaw broke curfew and he made him sit out. I respect that and use some the same ideas in parenting to guide and raise my daughter. Set a goal. Work hard to achieve your goal. If you believe in yourself, you can achieve your goal.”

The hard work of the Oliveira family paid off when one afternoon Jimmy got a phone call from thanking him for his video. “I got on a phone call and the person said, ‘I want to thank you for your video.’ I thought that I lost. Then he said, on behalf of I would like to congratulate you. I said, what did you say? He told me, you are the winner. I just started crying. I never won anything in my life.”


Jimmy immediately drove up to the school to share the good news with his daughter. “I actually left my house and went right up to the school. When I ran in there I asked her, Guess what? She looked at me and I told her, we won! We’re going to the super bowl. She was crying. I was crying. It was just a real great feeling.”


When asked for a prediction on the game, Jimmy said, “I don’t want to give a score, but I’m very confident in this team and I think we are going to come out on top. It is going to be a good game. Going to the super bowl with my daughter is just like a dream. The fairytale will be complete.”


-- Robyn Lee blogs at Faith & Family Live.

Robyn Lee

Robyn Lee is Managing Editor of Catholic Digest.