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'Superman Sam' Inspires Rabbis to Shave Their Heads for Cancer Research

The 8-year-old died in December. His parents, both rabbis, have organized more than 70 other rabbis to shave their heads as a fundraiser for pediatric cancer research.

Sam Sommer, 8, of Highwood died in December after an 18-month battle against leukemia. Photo courtesy of Congregation Am Shalom.
Sam Sommer, 8, of Highwood died in December after an 18-month battle against leukemia. Photo courtesy of Congregation Am Shalom.

It’s been a little over 100 days since Rabbis Michael and Phyllis Sommer buried their 8-year-old son, Sam, when his refractory acute myeloid leukemia returned after a bone marrow transplant.

The Sommers wrote beautifully and candidly about Sam’s struggle and death in their blog. Known as “Superman Sam,” his story touched people near and far. Tuesday, the couple, along with dozens of other reform rabbis will shave their heads as a fundraiser for St. Baldrick's, which raises money for pediatric cancer research, during the Conference of American Rabbis in Chicago.

In total, more than 70 rabbis were part of the fundraising initiative, though some have already shaved their heads in front of their congregations, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune, including Rabbi Steven Stark Lowenstein of Glencoe’s Am Shalom, where Phyllis Sommer is an associate rabbi.

The group started out as 36 rabbis.

“That’s who we are,” the organizers wrote on their fundraising page. “Thirty-six slightly-meshugene, but very devoted rabbis who are yearning to do something. We couldn't save Sammy; perhaps, though, we can save others like him. And spare other parents like Phyllis and Michael from the pain of telling their child that there is nothing that the doctors can do to save his life.” 

As of Monday afternoon, they had raised $529,725 with a goal of $540,000.

“May Sammy's memory strengthen the glue that binds us as one and fuel our determination to eradicate Pediatric Cancer in our lifetimes of mending the world and making it a better place,” Michael Sommer wrote in the family’s blog Sunday. “We have the will, we have the way, we have communities who believe in what we believe that no child or family should ever experience what we and so many like us have experienced.”

You can visit their fundraising page here.

You can read more about Superman Sam here.

And you can read the Tribune’s article here.

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