During the pandemic, Sam, their 11-year-old son and only child, was diagnosed with cancer.
After the initial celebrations were over, Jenny was determined to plan the perfect post-chemo party to celebrate Sam’s life after undergoing treatment that ravaged his body.
“He had to have the best time ever,” says Jenny. “Whatever it takes.”
Sam was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. ALL is known for its merciless arrival and painful side effects that can last long into adulthood. So, when the 2.5-year protocol was over, and Sam was clear – and in the best-case-scenario group – the celebration had to rock hard.
Matthew, Jenny, and Sam Sachs have a tribe of friends and family who saw them to the finish line in March, when treatment was in the rear-view mirror, and Sam entered remission.
“We looked at several party venues but circled back to the Simon Family JCC for lots of reasons. For starters, Sam was clear that it had to be a pool party,” she says.
Parties are always full of what-ifs (weather) and how-tos (build a donut hole wall). Getting every detail right can make anyone crazy.
“This party was an even bigger deal because it allowed our family to celebrate with all the people who didn’t attend Sam’s Bar Mitzvah because it was in Israel, and for all the people who supported us throughout Sam’s medical journey.”
Sam has a wry smile to match his clever wit. “My party was like a Bar Mitzvah that isn’t awkward. It had such good energy.”
Sam loved hanging out with school buds, family friends, and people he has met along his medical journey. Some friends he has known since he was three, and many others were first introduced at ODC, his school since age seven.
Some were fellow performers from his time as Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and others were his teammates from their historic winning streak in the Battle of the Books competition. Build a donut hole wall and they will come.
“All the kids had a blast,” says Jenny. “We didn’t see Sam the whole time!”
Not many venues are set up for Sam and many of his friends to shoot hoops and play putt putt, Marco Polo, corn hole, gaga, and float-shoving pool games in conjunction with the pleasures of a photo booth, body painting, four food trucks, and a DIY glow-in-the-dark donut hole wall.
Jenny gives Pinterest credit for the donut hole wall idea which delightfully converted to a 10-hour bonding experience between Sam and his grandfather Warren. Together they collected and cut the heavy boards, drilled the hinges, and hammered holes. “That was a highlight for sure,” says Sam. “My grandfather is really really handy and this was right up his alley.”
Their homemade board was a big hit. Sam gets a kick reporting on a quirky friend who made a Pollards Chickwich with the last two donuts.
“It seems that Sam and his friends are entering the soda ‘shotgun’ stage of their lives? Not sure who taught them that,” Jenny smirks.
Matthew Sachs sees children, often at their worst. His collaborative practice model is refreshing to patients and their parents. A tech lover, he prepared a professional slide show that celebrated Sam while realizing a childhood dream of his own.
“It could have been sad,” says Jenny, “but instead Matthew made the illness feel like a small part of a beautiful life just beginning.”
Jenny’s speech to Sam was just another parental mic drop moment.
Marty Einhorn, of beloved memory, was Sam’s musical mentor long before cancer was on anyone’s radar. Following Einhorn’s death, Sam was still in treatment and the pandemic was in full swing. Despite feeling terrible from the enormous physical toll of chemo, he insisted on blowing the shofar for the dedication of The Marty Einhorn Pavilion.
Two years later, feeling fantastic, he had a second full-circle Marty Einhorn moment. This time he concluded his very own party playing trumpet to Sweet Caroline with the band, two members of which are his parents.
So many friends came to celebrate Sam and enjoy the JCC.
Here is what a few said they loved most about the party, the hosts – and most of all Sam, a very brave and lovable friend:
The video Matthew prepared was centered around Sam’s friends and family and his Bar Mitzvah in Israel. It was such a positive expression of love that captured details of Sam’s life. It hit all the emotional highs and made us smile and laugh and captured the pivotal lows from the past few years. Throughout it all, the message of the importance of family and friends rang clear. Sam and his family are surrounded by love and support. –Erinn Foleck Portnoy
Sam’s celebration was amazing! So many of his friends and family were there. I loved that the party was at the JCC pool so that we could cool off and have a blast. –Amelia Portnoy
My family and I absolutely loved celebrating Sam. He is an amazing kid. It has been an honor to work with him and his family to help support kids at CHD through Sam’s Warriors. He was a true bright light like his glow-themed party! –Robin Kantor
We had so much fun celebrating Sam! His party was awesome especially the ice-cream truck and photo booth! We also loved swimming! –Joey and Brody Kantor
The best part of the party was knowing that Sam was done with his treatment, and I loved hanging out with all my friends. – Piper Werby
Sam and our daughter Piper are the same age, and there have been so many times over the last three years when I would think “Wow, Sam’s navigating this whole season of middle school and bar mitzvah preparation AND undergoing treatment!” That must have taken a herculean effort, yet every time we saw Sam he had his head held high and a smile on his face. This party felt like a collective sigh of relief followed by one heck of a celebration – not just a celebration of life and health, but also of the love and strength that propelled Sam, Jenny, and Matthew through this period of their lives. – Monique Werby
Sam is an absolutely incredible strong, young man – truly a warrior! His positive outlook (as well as his parents’) on life given all that he has endured these past few years is truly inspiring. To be able to celebrate this culmination and the “light at the end” with him and his amazing family is an inspiration and gives us all hope that with community support, prayers, and love anything is possible – we are all in this together! – Rebecca Levy-Levitt
Seeing this emotional experience the Sachs have been through has been quite the journey. From the lowest of lows and the highest of highs, it was so amazing to see his family come through the other side into brightness and better days. – Rachel Krupnick
My parents tell me one party or another is a celebration of life. But Sam’s party really was a celebration of life – Sam’s life. I’m grateful to be able to celebrate with Sam for years to come. – Randall Nied
The Sachs are our family and so we’ve been following them closely since the very beginning. We are relieved and beyond thrilled that Sam fought so hard and won his battle. He’s a sweet, kind, and all-around great kid who will no doubt do great things. We were so happy to be by his side as the community celebrated the end of his treatment and the beginning of the next chapter! The kids had a blast just playing with Sam doing all the things kids do at a party! We could not be happier and know that Sam’s future is full of possibilities. –Stephanie Gusoff Steerman
The whole Sachs family is so beloved in the community. We were thrilled to see them all doing so well and enjoyed the show the most! We had no idea how talented they all are. We love Sam so much and can’t wait to see him thrive as he moves forward with his life. – Leah Flax
It was a joyous occasion when we gathered to celebrate Sam. He had been through so much pain and hardship, but our community rallied around him and hope was never lost. Sam inspired us all with his courage and strength. –Sharon Debb and Family
The pizza truck, Jenny’s singing, and seeing Sam have a good time were my favorites. Also, it was awesome to see so many people there for the celebration. – Leiba Debb