Sam Berns, who suffered from Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, died on Friday night. He was 17.

Sam Berns Dies

Berns didn’t let his grim diagnosis keep him from doing the things he loved, or making his mark in the world. He went to his homecoming at Foxborough High School where he played in the marching band, and shared his story as one of only about 200 kids living with progeria at a TEDx conference last fall, reported CNN.

Among the millions of people Berns had an impact on was New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. "I loved Sam Berns and am richer for having known him," Kraft said. "He was a special young man whose inspirational story and positive outlook on life touched my heart."

When the Patriots faced off against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday, they held a moment of silence for Berns, who’d once served as the squad’s honorary captain.

Berns’ progeria diagnosis meant that he was afflicted with premature and accelerated aging. From a biological perspective, progeria causes its sufferers to produce the progerin protein, which impedes normal cell function, according to the Progeria Research Foundation. Over time, those with progeria lose their hair and body fat, making it difficult for them to keep on weight.

"All in all, I don't waste energy feeling bad for myself," Berns said during his Tedx speech. "I surround myself with people that I want to be with. And I keep moving forward."

– Chelsea Regan

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