Recently, Todd Perry, CEO of the Pujols Family Foundation, spoke about the work that Albert Pujols does outside of baseball. Following is Part 2 of a series, More Than the Game:
“We did not choose Down syndrome. Down syndrome chose us.”
That’s the quote from Albert and Deidre Pujols for the “Family” section of the Pujols Family Foundation’s motto: “Faith. Family. Others.”
Down syndrome chose the Pujolses in the form of their daughter, Isabella.
Deidre Pujols had Isabella before she met Albert, but he didn’t hesitate in becoming Isabella’s father.
“I knew that I wanted to help her care for Isabella,” Pujols wrote in a piece for USA Today last year. “Isabella has been such a blessing to us. If she didn’t have Down syndrome, I don’t know whether we’d be involved with kids and adults with the disorder.”
And involved they certainly are. In 2009, Pujols gave $70,000 to St. Luke’s Hospital in Chesterfield, Mo., to start the Albert Pujols Wellness Center for Adults with Down Syndrome. The center provides services focused on nutrition, exercise, safety and social/emotional well-being. It also offers classes for the caregivers of people with Down syndrome.
In addition, the Pujols Family Foundation puts on many events in the St. Louis area for children and families dealing with Down syndrome, including self-defense classes, a prom, a fall festival and cooking classes. The biggest event of the year is probably the Autumn Prom, in which children with Down syndrome get to get dressed up and dance with their peers and Pujols himself.
“There really is something that happens in him when he’s with these kids,” Pujols Family Foundation CEO Todd Perry said. “You really kind of have to see it to understand. It’s like there is … a light that just shines out of him when he’s around these kids.”
Said Program Director Jen Cooper on the foundation’s website: “I love all of our events but there is something so special about the Prom. I love getting to see everyone all dressed up. Then once they hit that dance floor, it’s like seeing all the things that are so wonderful about them on display.”
The foundation’s work with Down syndrome “really is all centered around the kids, the families and just celebrating life,” Perry said. “That’s one of the things that we try to do through the foundation is not really try to fix anyone or anything. We’re here to meet the kids exactly where they are and just to celebrate them for who they are, and whatever level of ability they have, we can find something for them to do … just to be appreciated and celebrated.”
Fans who would like more information or to help out can visit www.pujolsfamilyfoundation.org or follow the foundation on Twitter at @pujolsfound.
Stay tuned to the Albert Pujols Examiner in the coming weeks to find out more about the work of the Pujols Family Foundation. Part one of the series can be found here. Follow on Twitter at @AllAlbertPujols.