The New England Patriots enjoyed an impressive victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Divisional Playoff round on Saturday, but it wasn’t all celebration and jubilation. 17-year-old Massachusetts native Sam Berns passed away just before game time of complications from progeria – a rare genetic condition that accelerates the aging process. Sam, who was the subject of an HBO documentary last year, had been asked by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft to be the team’s honorary captain for Saturday night’s playoff game.
“This weekend was the weekend of celebrations. Hollywood, of course, celebrated itself with the Golden Globe awards… On the football front, fans from Seattle to San Francisco to Denver and clear across to New England were celebrating their team's victories. The Patriots won at home,” Glenn said on radio this morning. “The game should have had one more in attendance. They were supposed to have an honorary captain for the game. His name was Sam Berns. I hope you know the name Sam Berns. He's a 17-year-old high school junior from Foxboro… Sam was a huge fan of the Patriots, but Sam didn't make it to the game. If you read TheBlaze last night, you found out that Sam died on Friday. Sam was a personal friend of one of the people that work here at Mercury, and he alerted me Friday.”
Sam was diagnosed with progeria at 22 months. His parents founded the nonprofit Progeria Research Foundation after encountering a lack of information and research on the fatal condition. Despite his condition, Sam’s outlook on life was infectious. And in both the HBO documentary, Life According to Sam, and various interviews, it became clear that porgeria would not define his life.
“Sam had a dream of playing the snare drums with his high school marching band. Problem is Sam only weighs about 50 pounds, and the harness weighed 40 pounds… It didn't stop Sam. Sam went and found somebody that could design a lightweight harness that would allow him to live his dream. Instead of 40 pounds, it weighed 6 pounds,” Glenn explained. “And [Sam] was out on the field living his dream. During a radio interview, Sam was asked, ‘What's the most important thing that people should know about you?’ Sam said, ‘That I have a happy life. I don't want people to feel bad for me. I don't want to waste energy feeling bad for myself.’”
Last night, Glenn and his family gathered around to watch the TEDTalks Sam gave late last year, in which he discussed his philosophy for a happy life:
“No matter what your problem is, no matter what you think you're facing, here's a kid who has more perspective than most adults I have ever met. He said he had a philosophy for a happy life,” Glenn said. “So the first step is: Be okay with what you ultimately can't do because there's so much you can do. Philosophy point number two: Surround yourself with people you want to be around, people of high quality. And tip number 3: Keep moving forward. The quote he used was from Disney. And he wrote: Around here we don't look backward very long. We keep moving forward. Opening up new doors and doing new things.”
During the talk, Sam also explained that he hoped to go into the field of biology, and he made clear that no matter what the future held, he had one mission in life – to change the world. And he undoubtedly did.
“This weekend there was another celebration that took place. It was the celebration of the life of Sam Berns. A ton we can learn from Sam,” Glenn concluded. “So if you think you have problems today, if you think you can't overcome, if you think that you won't be able to achieve your dreams, think about Sam and have some perspective: The Golden Globe awards or Sam Berns. Thank you, Sam. Through you we know that we are all each other's greatest teachers when we have something called perspective.”