14 November 2011
The Pujols Family Foundation hosted a basketball event that drew a star-studded crowd, including Pujols himself.
The Albert Pujols Family Foundation hosted its first basketball shootout and all-star game in Missouri Baptist University’s Carl and Deloris Petty Sports and Recreation Complex Oct. 30.
The foundation supports St. Louis families affected by Down’s syndrome. The event was exclusive for invited families before the all-star game at 6 p.m.
Among those attending the game was Pujols himself, fresh off a World Series championship, along with teammate Matt Holliday and recently named Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.
“I appreciate the kids and families with Down’s syndrome,” said Albert Pujols, founder of the Pujols Family Foundation. “I believe that it is part of my responsibility to make it as easy as we can on them with the event and the Foundation.”
Pujols’s team included Down’s syndrome athletes and local celebrities such as Matheny, the Cardinals’ former catcher who this week was given a two-year head coaching contract; former NBA players Jahidi White and Anthony Bonner; professional boxer Ryan Coyne; former heptathlete and three-time Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee; former Rams safety and one of the greatest shut down corners of all-time Aeneas Williams; and Harlem Globetrotter legend and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Meadowlark Lemon.
“This is the first year we’ve done basketball -- the past three years we have done a baseball game,” said Todd Perry, CEO of the Pujols Family Foundation. “This year they wanted to showcase the kids’ talent in basketball because it was difficult to show their personalities out on the baseball field.”
Pujols’s own plans to be at the game were in conflict with the World Series Parade of Champions, scheduled during the event.
After winning the World Series two days earlier, Pujols and Holliday still made an appearance on the basketball court.
“Albert would have not missed this event for the world,” Perry said. “He has been looking forward to this for a very long time.”
Pujols and Holliday made it to the event at halftime after World Series celebrations in downtown St. Louis. The crowd gave an ovation to the new World Series champions as they entered the gym.
“I know I was a little late because I had a commitment at the stadium but to just be here and spend time with the kids means a lot,” Pujols said.
The All-Stars’ opposing team was comprised of members of MBU’s men’s and women’s basketball teams.
“The event was designed to be light-hearted and for Albert’s All-Stars to win,” Perry said.
But Albert’s All-Stars weren’t the only ones excited to play.
“To see the excitement in the kids blew me away,” said Tom Smith, MBU’s athletics director and acting coach for the MBU team at the event. “I was blessed to see how our student athletes responded. It really moved me and I’m glad I could be a small part of it.”
Men’s basketball player Jordan Flora agreed.
“This was the greatest experience I’ve ever had,” Flora said. “Just to be able to be a part of it was a blessing in itself.”
As the first outside event to be held in the new SRC facility, activities for families tied to the foundation included a basketball shootout competition and visits from vendors such as McAlister’s Deli, Cold Stone Creamery and Smoothie King.
The Pujols Family Foundation let the doors open to MBU’s public 15 minutes prior to the all-star game after Foundation spectators grabbed a seat.
“The event was not a public event,” said Terri Adams, MBU’s director of special events. “The Pujols Family Foundation allowed us to fill in any seats that the Foundation families didn't use.”
Director of Development Jon Vestal said an email was sent to students, faculty and staff inviting them to fill any remaining seats at the all-star game.
After the game Pujols said a few words, thanking everyone for coming out and supporting the cause. He stayed and signed autographs for fans.