Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman is spending the offseason promoting a very personal cause – his new organization for children with autism and Down syndrome.
Bregman, an Albuquerque native and World Series champion, helped launch AB for AUDS in October to honor his godson, Brady Columbus, an energetic, towheaded, 5-year-old who has autism.
The organization held its first major event Monday, partnering with the Holmans Foundation for Autism and the APS Education Foundation to donate four iPads and protective cases to autistic students at Petroglyph Elementary School, where Brady is enrolled in preschool.
Hitting coach Jason Columbus, who is Brady’s dad and Bregman’s best friend, has seen his son and other kids with autism improve communication, motor and cognitive skills using iPad apps.
On Monday, Brady was on hand at Holmans’ Albuquerque headquarters to celebrate the donation – and pose for photographers, play with blocks and run under tables. The sprightly live wire did it all with a huge smile and frequent giggles.
“It’s the most fun time ever hanging out with Brady,” Bregman told media during the news conference. “He’s an incredible kid, extremely smart. And he can cheer you up in three seconds.”
The two connect over FaceTime several times a week no matter where Bregman’s Major League career has taken him.
It’s clear the little boy provides the ultimate mood boost and puts any slump in perspective.
When Brady was diagnosed with autism, the condition immediately became Bregman’s top cause.
He joined with Columbus and Jared Koutnik, a former New York Yankees minor leaguer, to create AB for AUDS, devoting himself to the charity between preseason workouts.
The organization also will benefit kids with Down syndrome to honor a friend’s 13-year-old son, who has the genetic disorder and is on the autism spectrum.
Bregman said he is happy his success has given him a platform to help children.
“I want to make an impact,” he said. “We have some huge visions.”
In addition to donating iPads, Bregman and the Holmans Foundation for Autism will host an Albuquerque Public Schools student with autism and the student’s family at a Houston Astros baseball series this summer.
AB for AUDS fundraising events also are planned for Houston and Chicago.
John Santoru, vice president of Holmans, a company that sells measurement technology tools such as GPS, called Bregman a great mentor for local kids and thanked him for supporting the community.
“It’s a very special moment for me and the foundation,” Santoru said.
Like Bregman, Holmans staff also has a personal tie to autism.
Holmans President Anthony Trujillo’s 14-year-old daughter, Sophia, has severe autism and requires many educational supports.
“She inspires me every day,” Trujillo told the Journal. “She’s a little fighter.”
Since its launch in 2013, the Holmans Foundation for Autism has donated more than 160 iPads to schools and held several annual fundraisers and events for autistic children, including a special symphony performance with the New Mexico Philharmonic.
This summer, roughly 500 kids on the autism spectrum packed Popejoy Hall to hear the symphony orchestra retell the story of “Peter and the Wolf” alongside a dance troupe. The next Symphony for Autism will have a “Star Wars” theme.
About a thousand kids with autism are enrolled in APS schools, according to district administrators.