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Pujols Family Foundation Autumn Prom 2010

October 15, 2010

By Anna Jones

Marcus Ming-Tatum is no stranger to the Pujols Family Foundation’s Autumn Prom.

The valet parking, the applause and cheers along red carpet entrance, fabulous food, dancing the night away with Fredbird, hanging with Albert … what began as a special event in 2007 for teens and adults with Down syndrome has become one of the biggest parties of the year for Marcus and his friends.

But he still found himself spellbound when he walked into the Kemp Auto Museum, the new venue for the 4th annual event, held on Friday, Oct. 15.

“The cars here look like his little cars at home, and when he walked in, he kept saying, ‘My cars, my cars,’” said his mom, Candace Tatum, of University City. “Albert and his wife are the best to do this for the kids. It’s so outstanding and so elegant, truly, I can’t put it into words.”

As soon as Marcus had a chance to see the dozen-plus vintage cars, he was busy with his friends, laughing and dancing, and picking right back up where last year’s party had left off.

In previous years, the event has been held at the Crowne Plaza in Clayton, but by last year, with approximately 350 in attendance, the prom was quickly outgrowing the ballroom. So the Foundation moved the event to the Auto Museum in the Chesterfield Valley, allowing for more than 400 to attend this year, including a family that traveled from Chicago for the event.

But many other elements remained the same, including the most important: The SmashBand absolutely brought the kids to life. Within minutes of the 7pm start, the dance floor was packed with couples who were swinging, swaying and rocking, shimmying to the floor, pumping their fists, even rocking out on air guitars.

“I love all of our events but there is something so special about the Prom,” says Jen Cooper, Pujols Family Foundation program director. “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. They have such energy and enjoyment and do not seem to have a care in the world. I love being in the middle of the dance floor having an amazing time dancing with everyone. But sometimes I just stand back and just watch it all unfold. It is such a special night. It is the best night of the year.”

The only time all evening that everything seemed to come to a true stop came about 7:20pm, when Smash introduced Albert and Deidre Pujols and a big ovation and shout-outs followed.

Then it was right back to the action, and Albert jumped right in, dancing the night away too, while a camera crew from 60 Minutes captured the action.

Even when the SmashBand took a break just before 8pm, Albert stayed on dance floor, talking with the prom-goers and taking part in lots of party pictures with everyone’s cameras, even taking some himself.

“This year my daughter actually ran up and hugged Albert!,” said David Kauzlarich, who was wearing a balloon Spider-Man on his head, one of the many amazing balloon items created by Mike’s Balloon Creations (which had a long line all night).

Sarah, 21, of Imperial had opted for the balloon snake, then got right back to dancing.

“She loves the music,” said David, who has taken Sarah to the last three proms. “Sarah gets out there and has her arms up and is dancing. I almost have to drag her off the dance floor so she doesn’t pass out.”

But the biggest celebrity of all had to be St. Louis Cardinals mascot Fredbird, who was absolutely swarmed when he hit the dance floor. A number of prom-goers came up to Fredbird like their best friend had just arrived at the party, and his antics had many laughing and others all but mesmerized.

“It’s crazy. It’s like he totally tops Albert,” laughed mom and volunteer Stefanie Maucher.

With a number of birthdays among the group, Smash took a moment to announce some of them. And then John Powell, 19, of St. Louis, took to the stage to give a toast he had written himself:

Ladies and gentlemen, Raise your glass and let’s say this toast. To the best baseball player and friend of ours Albert Pujols. A toast to Albert Pujols for this four-year prom.

“He loves to give toasts and he just want to show his appreciation,” said mom Beverly. “It was his idea, and when Smash let him go up there, that was wonderful.”

The toast drew big cheers, then it was back to even more dancing, with Michael Jackson songs the biggest hits of all.

“(My favorite part) is just watching the kids have fun,” said Stefanie, whose daughter Erika was attending her first PFF prom. “We practiced dancing all week, I even taught her the electric slide. … When her date came and picked her up, oh my gosh, she was so excited.”


October 15, 2010
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