In some ways, 16-year-old Sam Berns is a typical, high-achieving kid. A junior at Foxborough High School, Berns is an Eagle Scout, he plays drums in the marching band, gets exceptionally good grades, and harbors dreams of becoming an inventor, “kind of Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs combined.”
But in another way, Berns is unlike almost anyone else you’ll ever meet. He was born with Progeria, a genetic abnormality that causes accelerated aging, a syndrome so rare that Sam is one of only about 250 kids with it in the world.
He’s also the subject of a new documentary, “Life According to Sam,” which premieres Monday on HBO. The film was made by Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine, whose credits include the Oscar-nominated doc “War/Dance” and “Inocente,” which won the 2013 Academy Award for best documentary (Short Subject).
What we learn in this emotional film is that Berns’s parents, Dr. Leslie Gordon and Dr. Scott Berns, are both physicians and love their son enormously. They’re also trying, through a foundation Gordon formed, to set up a clinical trial that could lead to a treatment for the fatal disease.
Enter Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who read a story about Berns in the Foxboro Reporter, and soon after invited him to a team practice before the Pats/Falcons game Sept. 29. Impressed with Berns, who’s an uncommonly sweet kid despite his condition, Kraft pledged $1,000 to the Progeria Research Foundation for every year of Sam’s life. (Shrewdly, Sam had Kraft hold off on writing the check until his 17th birthday, which is Oct. 23.)
In the meantime, the Pats owner arranged to attend the New York premiere of the film, and afterward offered to match every donation to the Progeria Research Foundation, up to $500,000, from now until Sam’s birthday.
“I have fallen in love with Sam and I am sure that sentiment is shared by anyone who has ever spent time with him,” Kraft said. “Sam is a star and what his parents have achieved in their search to find a cure is incredibly inspirational.”