An 8-year-old boy who inspired a rabbinical cancer awareness campaign has died.

Sam Sommer, known as Superman Sam, was diagnosed with leukemia 18 months ago. In response, the boy’s parents reached out to the Reform Central Conference of American Rabbis in Sam’s local Chicago, urging spiritual leaders to shave their heads this March in solidarity.

Dozens of rabbis had already pledged to join the campaign by the time Sam succumbed to his cancer on Saturday. His funeral was held yesterday at temple Am Shalom, where Sam’s mother Phyllis is an associate rabbi.

Phyllis Sommer was responsible for launching the Superman Sam blog, which chronicled Sam’s fight and inspired the “36 Rabbis Shave for the Brave” project. The initiative is raising funds for pediatric cancer research.

As of yesterday, 51 rabbis had already signed on to the project, still determined to shave their locks come March. The campaign is part of the St. Baldricks initiative, a 13-year-old group that raises awareness and funds for child’s cancer research.

So far, the Sommers’ campaign has raised more than $120,000, with money rolling in since news of Sam’s death.

“Following Sammy’s death, there’s just greater resolve to get more people on board to prevent more [families] from having to endure this,” said Rabbi Charles Briskin, one of the rabbis signed up for the project.

“Our goal is to keep the momentum going as we make our way to Chicago.”

See how you can get involved here. 

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