Samuel Butler Callahan
Oct. 25, 1995-Jan. 14, 2013
Resident of Campbell
Surrounded by his family at home, Samuel Butler Callahan was peacefully called to heaven after a three-and-a-half year battle with a rare childhood cancer. Sam was taken far too soon but that didn't diminish the impact that had on so many people's lives. Sam was an old soul, wise beyond his years, with a keen sense of humor and an intense curiosity about life.
Sam was born in Los Gatos, California and attended Sacred Heart School in Saratoga and later St. Lucy's Parish School in Campbell. Sam was a bright student as well as a gifted athlete. He was an all-star baseball player and later a competitive golfer. Early in Sam's 8th grade year, he was diagnosed with metastatic Ewing's Sarcoma, a form of cancer that typically affects young people. Sam was initially treated at the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford and he kept up with his class by having his tutor Eric Hansen come to his home as the doctors didn't want Sam exposed to any infections. Sam graduated with his class in June of 2010 and gave and emotional and uplifting speech at his graduation.
Sam attacked his cancer journey with every intention of becoming cancer free. After surviving nine months of intense chemotherapy and radiation at Stanford, Sam and his family navigated the medical world to find specialists who could help him.
Sam found those specialists at M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas and at the Sarcoma Oncology Center in Santa Monica, California. It was in Houston and Santa Monica that Sam participated in clinical trials that helped shrink his tumors. This allowed him to eventually undergo radical surgery to remove 75 tumors and two thirds of his right lung, a surgery that the doctors described as "life-saving." He maintained this travel schedule for two years while continuing his education at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose. Sam passed all of his classes and was progressing towards graduating with his class. He loved his time at Bellarmine and he preferred to not let on to his classmates how sick he was.
Along the way, Sam experienced a lot of life. He met Kevin Frandsen, then with the San Francisco Giants, during his first stay in the hospital at Stanford. Kevin provided tremendous encouragement to Sam and later wrote a letter of reference for Sam as he applied to Bellarmine. Sam was a guest of the San Francisco 49ers where he met all the players and gave blue "Sam's Team" bracelets to Frank Gore and Moran Norris, each of whom wore them in games to honor Sam. The San Francisco Giants hosted Sam at FanFest where he met most of the 2010 team that went on to win the World Series. Later in the summer he attended the Giants vs. Red Sox (both of Sam's favorite teams), where a friend introduced Sam to Darnell Macdonald, outfielder for the Red Sox. Darnell gave Sam signed baseballs from several team members and Sam gave Darnell one of his "Sam's Team" bracelets with the idea that if he wore it he would hit a home run that day. Sure enough, Darnell hit the third pitch he saw in the first inning over the left field wall. Dan Shaughnessy, the famous Boston Globe sportswriter wrote an article about that special day that appeared on the front of the sports section a few days later. Both Dan and Darnell stayed in touch with Sam from then on, seeing him whenever they were in town to play and cover the Oakland A's. In May of 2012, Dan and Darnell hosted Sam and his mother in the trip of a lifetime to see two games at Fenway Park in Boston. Of all of Sam's incredible experiences, he held this one as his favorite. Sam often said that what he really liked wasn't being invited to games because he had cancer; he wanted to meet and talk to the players and get to know them. As much as Sam was inspired by these adventures, the people he encountered always went away inspired by Sam. There were so many other adventures with UFC, Strikeforce and MMA fighters who visited Sam in the hospital, to Olympic Gold Medalist Andre Ward who did a photo shoot and public service announcement with Sam, to participating in NBA player Drew Gooden's charity golf tournament to benefit The Make-A-Wish Foundation. Sam was fortunate to take a Make-A-Wish trip to Maui to play golf, surf and enjoy his favorite place on earth.
Together with his Aunt Jeanne Butler, Sam organized the Sam Butler Callahan Foundation to raise money and awareness for Ewing's Sarcoma research and to help Sam's family with the travel related expenses for his treatment. Sam hosted two "Club with Sam's Team" events and raised more than $200,000 for the cause.
For the past two months, Sam had been at home under the care of Pathways Kids, a dedicated hospice group who came to the house as needed to help care for Sam.
Sam is survived by his mother and stepfather, Suzy Callahan van Bronkhorst and Derek van Bronkhorst of Campbell; his father and stepmother, Kenn and Fati Callahan of Santa Cruz; his beloved brother Joseph Butler Callahan and grandparents Gerald and Judie Butler of Saratoga, CA and Don and Joleen Callahan of Los Gatos, CA.
Friends and family are invited to a celebration of Sam's life on Thursday, January 24th at 11:15 a.m. in the Gym at Bellarmine College Preparatory at 960 West Hedding Street San Jose, CA 95126. A reception will follow on the grounds at Bellarmine. Parking for the celebration will be available at the lot at the intersection of Emory and Stockton, please access via Stockton Street. Sam requested that everyone wear his/her "Sunday Best" to honor his memory and his style. In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations be made to The Samuel Butler Callahan Scholarship Fund at Bellermine College Preparatory, 960 West Hedding Street, San Jose, CA 95126.
Published in San Jose Mercury News/San Mateo County Times on Jan. 20, 2013