This annual golf tournament, benefiting the Pujols Family Foundation, had all of the trappings of a lavish charity event held in Newport Beach, California. Of course, Angels' prodigy, Mike Trout, won the longest drive competition. After the golf round, there were various celebrities mingling with participants before comedian George Lopez emceed the dinner. Logos of generous sponsors adorned virtually every surface and winners were gently heckled for questionably low scores in relation to par.
But unlike many charity events which are mostly about raising money and awareness, this one presented a unique opportunity for all of us to contribute, without ever having to spend a nickel: We can help protect people with Down syndrome from being bullied.
Down syndrome is a topic near and dear to Albert and his wife Deidre. One of their children, Isabella, has Down syndrome. Isabella was the impetus behind starting the Pujols Family Foundation which has enabled Albert to discover one of his greatest joys: helping children with disabilities. . While the Foundation also serves underprivileged children in the Dominican Republic, where Albert grew up in poverty, much of it is focused on assisting children with Down syndrome.
As such, a video of children with Down syndrome being interviewed was shown during dinner. Like most kids, the children on the video expressed how they loved their parents and one child shared his aspiration to play in the NBA (a goal that I shared at one point in life). Others discussed their social life, saying that they go on dates, love to dance, and are even hopeful of their first kiss. Most of the crowd laughed, as children's candor can be quite profound.
And then a section on bullying played. It was appalling. The children talked about how they are often teased and picked on. A girl described how uncomfortable she felt because people constantly stared at her. One boy explained that he knows that he's "slower" than other people but only hoped to be treated fairly. After that section of the video, no one in the crowd was laughing and some even had tears in their eyes.
Probably to a fault, I tend to be a realist. People have their differences and not everyone is going to get along. But bullying people with disabilities, like Down syndrome, is an abomination. When I hear heartwarming stories of students at Yorktown High School and Little Chute High School encouraging their peers that face disabilities, perhaps my naiveté leads me to believe that we are becoming more tolerant and more progressive. The bullying section of the video was a sad reminder that we are not.
As a society, we may never be able to eradicate all bullying. But we can put an end to bullying people with disabilities so that a year from now no such video interviews need to have a "bullying" section.
So if you're bullying someone with Down syndrome or even someone who watches it happen without intervening, please ask yourself why you're behaving that way and what it says about you. And if you're someone who knows that bullying is wrong but likes to do it anyway, please go seek help from Albert Pujols and his Marucci baseball bat.