Eight-year-old Sam loved all holidays. But being in treatment for acute myeloid leukemia made it difficult for him to celebrate his favorites — his birthday, Purim, Chanukah, and Halloween.
His parents, Phyllis and Michael, both rabbis, made Sam’s last Chanukah a very special one. Sam had talked about having a fireworks show for his funeral. Instead, they had fireworks to celebrate the Festival of Lights and their vibrant son.
Ambassador Sam and his family. From left to right: Yael, Solly, Phyllis, Sam, Michael and David.
“He was totally transfixed by the fireworks show, knowing that it was for him but not able to enjoy it as much as I think he wished he could,” his mom, Phyllis, said. “It was so poignant for all of us to know that fireworks would always remind us of Sam, and we’re hoping to make Chanukah fireworks a community tradition in the future.”
Sam’s spirit lives on in the work of his parents’ St. Baldrick’s event, 36 Rabbis Shave for the Brave. Garbed in purple and green, Sam’s favorite colors, that group of shaving rabbis and supporters rallied for research in April 2014, raising almost $750,000.
Superman Sam, as he was appropriately known, was energetic, smart and funny. He referred to his cancer as a “ninja” after he had relapsed, because the cancer was strong and sly.
Sam loved monster trucks, dragons, and the James Bond movie soundtracks. He had a fondness for McDonald’s and pizza.
But most of all, he loved his family.
He looked up to his big brother, David, and Sam tried to do everything he did, whether he was old enough or not. He lovingly bickered with his sister, Yael, who shaved her head with St. Baldrick’s in honor of her brother. He adored his baby brother, Solomon, and Solomon loved Sam back intensely.
“Solly talks about Sammy constantly now, as though he is a regular part of his life,” Phyllis said. “But he also tells me, nearly every night, how much he misses Sam.”
Sam is one of five St. Baldrick’s Foundation 2015 Ambassadors, representing the thousands of kids touched by cancer each year.