FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Sam Berns, a Massachusetts boy whose battle with a rare and fatal genetic condition that accelerates the aging process inspired the New England Patriots players and was the subject of an HBO documentary "Life According to Sam," has died. He was 17.
Berns of Foxborough died Friday due to complications from Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, commonly known as progeria. The Progeria Research Foundation announced his death.
Berns was diagnosed with progeria when he was 22 months old. His parents later founded the nonprofit foundation after encountering a lack of information and research on the condition whose victims live an average of 13 years.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft mourned Berns' death, saying he had invited him to be the team's honorary captain for Saturday night's playoff game and was looking forward to spending time with him and his family.
"I loved Sam Berns and am richer for having known him," Kraft said in a statement Saturday.
Kraft, after being introduced to Berns and attending the HBO premiere of the documentary in New York in October, made a $500,000 matching pledge to the foundation. Berns, a sports fan who was invited to a Patriots practice that month, gave the players an impromptu motivational speech, the Boston Globe reported.
Berns was asked to name his favorite player. He didn't have one. It takes a team to succeed, he said.
|NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 8: (L-R) Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, Ricki Lander, Dr. Scott Berns, and Sam Berns attend The New York Premiere Of HBO's 'Life According To Sam' at HBO Theater on October 8, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Thos Robinson/Getty Images for HBO)|
Team issued statement on Kern's passing:
Statement from New England Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft on news of the passing of 17-year-old Sam Berns:
"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."
ESPN posted a video of Sam meeting with the team earler this fall.