When you think about Albert Pujols you probably think of his iconic stance, a powder keg fused, waiting to explode. However, for so many people in need of support, faith or just a hug, Pujols has meant so much more.
The eponymous charity organization is as multifaceted as the baseball star for which it is named. It’s as if the 40-year-old decided back in 2005 that he didn’t want to pick one group to help so decided to spread his goodwill to as many people as possible.
The Pujols Family Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charity organization is a way for the soft-spoken future Hall of Famer to touch the lives of those with Down syndrome, others with what is described as life-threatening illnesses, and still others in the Dominican Republic—where Pujols grew up in Santo Domingo—who need financial aid.
The foundation is a steady operation of goodwill, churning out smiles like they were gobstoppers out of Willy Wonka’s factory.
The above mission and its three pillars serve to drive the charity with myriad events planned around the calendar.
On Saturday, Dec. 5, the organization is holding a gala called O’Night Divine: Home for the Holidays. Due to the pandemic and the surge in COVID cases, so many organizations have been forced to pivot what may have otherwise been live events.
On Saturday, the Pujols will bring the merriment and festivities to the community virtually. Last year, the season got its kick-off at the St. Louis Ritz Carlton.
The holiday gala follows the greatest event of the year, the Pujols Foundation prom, which is the kind of night that sticks with you for a lifetime.
The 2019 event was the most recent chapter in a night of pure adulation.
That same year, Pujols was back in St. Louis to play against the Cardinals instead of for them. MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch profiled the player’s work that continued in the city long after he left for the west coast.
The reporter spoke with Todd Perry at the time, who remains the executive director of the foundation.
“It was never about the uniform he wore,” Perry said of Pujols last summer. “It was never about who he played for, or if he played baseball at all. This was about the authenticity of having a child with Down syndrome, understanding the gaps and holes in services, and knowing he could do something about it.”
To understand a bit about the foundation, you have to get a crash course in the athlete who created it in 2005.
If you want the impetus behind the charitable organization, look no further than the size of Pujols’ heart, which would make a reformed Grinch jealous.
The Angels’ first baseman was profiled in a “60 Minutes” piece back in 2011, amid a contract year with the St. Louis Cardinals.
For 12 minutes the audience is re-introduced to Pujols, a legend in the middle of his career. So many fans know about his talents on the field but some were unaware of his charitable feats off of it.
As explained, Pujols became dedicated to the lifelong mission of inclusion and access for those with Down syndrome the minute he met his wife Diedre and her daughter Isabella. As seen in the above video, Pujols never once questioned his decision to follow his heart.
And it’s that kind of steadfast drive and confidence in his decisions that turned him from a 13th round draft pick to an undeniable first-ballot Hall of Famer.
It was in meeting Isabella that he discovered that he also had a new mission in life, and that was to further his reach and grant as many wishes to so many people who surround Pujols and douse him with the happiness he helped cultivate.
“At the end of the day, he is a dad that has a child with Down syndrome,” Jen Teemer, director of programming and mission advancement for the foundation, said, via MLB.com. “I think about how this girl has become the inspiration for serving so many families. The lives that are forever changed because of her is so amazing.”
The foundation is also committed to making life better for those families living in Dominican Republic bateys, impoverished communities that remain in need of basic health care and education.
In 2019, the foundation launched Con Gracia, a sponsorship program dedicated to supporting the families and communities that live in the bateys, cultivating change from the family first in the hopes that the community at large will become enriched.
“I love the work Con Gracia is doing in the Dominican Republic in the village of Batey Aleman,” Pujols said in a 2019 Facebook post. “Growing up in the (Dominican Republic) I know how life-changing programs like this can be for a child or a family living in poverty.”
Pujols understands the plight but also the power of utilizing one’s platform. He is a classic example of a humanitarian at heart who happens to be an amazing athlete.
He doesn’t flaunt his hard work off the field, but the effects are apparent in every jubilant dance move seen on the foundation’s social media or every smile captured the minute the big man walks in the room.