Sam Santhuff was just five-years-old when he was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer.
After a 13 month battle, Sam passed away in September of 2014.
“When Sam was in his fight with rhabdomyosarcoma in 2013 and 2014, he asked a lot of very hard questions for a five and six-year-old,” said Sam’s mom, Cassie. “His questions were centered around how we can get more research and advocacy. He really wanted to make sure everything he did and we did as a family helped another family in the fight.”
Cassie and the Santhuff family made a promise to Sam they would continue to help other families going through similar battles. Three weeks after he passed, they created the Super Sam Foundation.
“Super Sam” was the name given to Sam when he was heading into surgery one day and saw a Superman shirt along his way there. Cassie said it’s a name that was well deserved.
The Super Sam Foundation is 100% volunteer-based and has successfully fundraised for pediatric cancer over the last six years.
One unique way the foundation helps kids battling any life-altering illnesses is by giving them comfort packs: an idea created by Sam that provides kids with a stuffed animal, soft blanket, book, movie, and/or iTunes gift card.
“I remember he wanted to send out 100 of these comfort packs, they were all his idea,” said Cassie. “When we got to the point where we had 100 packs we could send out and I was so excited to share with him this because he was in bone marrow, in isolation. I was like ‘Oh wow, we have enough for 100’ and he just sort of sat back and goes, ‘That’s good, how about 1,000?'”
As the Super Sam Foundation continues to fight for an end to childhood cancer, Cassie recalled days of frustration at the hospital.
“I literally remember screaming into a pillow at the hospital because I was just so mad that it felt like we were here fighting for Sam’s life and he was going through these horrific treatments,” she said. “It just didn’t feel like as a community, as a society, we were talking about it enough. That’s why I am so motivated to continue to fight because I don’t want one more mom screaming into a pillow feeling like nobody is out there fighting for them and their child.”
Cassie said one phrase used a lot in the pediatric cancer world is, “More than four.” This is used because statistics show just under 4% of the American Cancer Institute’s funding is used towards childhood cancer.
The Santhuff family prides themselves on three basic principles.
“Would this make Sam proud? Does this honor God? Would this help all the kids?” said Cassie. “I’m really proud to say we have stuck really closely to that. Every decision we make, those are the questions we ask ourselves. I think because of that, because of being fully volunteer ran, there is a sense of community within the foundation and with our supporters.”
Every year, the biggest Super Sam Foundation fundraising event is the Hope Gala. However, because of COVID-19, it has been moved to a live-streamed event.
The event is Friday evening beginning at 7 p.m. It will include local cancer family stories, an auction, and two major surprise announcements about the foundation and pediatric cancer research.