Sam Berns, the 17-year-old boy who became famous as the face of a rare disease called progeria, died on Friday. Berns was the subject of an HBO documentary, as well as an inspirational and motivational speaker who preached to others the importance of being happy despite life’s obstacles. He was also a huge Patriots fan.
Stunningly, Berns was supposed to be the Patriots’ honorary team captain for their divisional round matchup against the Colts on Saturday. He was hours away from achieving this life-long dream when he died due to complications from the disease.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft released this statement on Berns’ passing:
“I loved Sam Berns and am richer for having known him. He was a special young man whose inspirational story and positive outlook on life touched my heart. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to spend time with him and to get to know his incredible family. Together, they positively impacted the lives of people around the world in their quest to find a cure for Progeria. The HBO documentary, ‘Life According to Sam’ shared his incredible story with a national audience. It was so beautifully done. It made you laugh. It also made you cry. Today, it’s the latter for all who knew Sam or learned of his story through that documentary. Earlier this week, I had extended an invitation for Sam to be the Patriots’ honorary captain for tonight’s playoff game. I was looking forward to spending more time with Sam and his family. News of his passing came as a complete surprise. It is another reminder that we can’t take anything for granted. Be sure to give your loved ones hugs and kisses and tell them how much you love them. My heart aches for his parents, Scott and Leslie, his aunt Audrey and the rest of Sam’s extended family. Words cannot express the sadness or the depth of sympathy I feel for them today.”
Progeria is a genetic condition that affects one out of 8 million live births, and is characterized by premature aging symptoms. Though it’s tough to feel anything but grief and anger over this untimely passing, this video of Berns’ TED talk on a philosophy for a happy life will hopefully cheer you up. The ending is particularly uplifting: