Healing and Home Runs

Jewish values and a lifelong friendship inspired a young home run hitter to raise money for diabetes.
courtesy of Joan Staveley

At Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School (HMJDS), kindergartener Sam Hunt was the new kid. It was the start of a new year, and he didn’t know anyone. Daniel Goldenberg already had a group of friends, but he hit it off with Hunt—both full of energy, with a “definite prankster, sort of joyous, happy-elf side,” says Joan Staveley, Hunt’s mom. They were also both athletic and, with the throw of a ball, would invent new sports together.

Fast-forward to last December, about a decade later: Sam takes second place at the International Power Showcase, a home-run-hitting tournament where he smashes 25 homeruns, 10 of them soaring over the fence of the Miami Marlins stadium in Florida.

One of 170 young players chosen from around the world to participate in the International Power Showcase, Sam got to pick a cause as part of fundraising opportunity, Home Runs that Help. None of the charities suggested by the Showcase resonated with Hunt personally, so he submitted his own idea.

It had to do with his good friend Daniel. In 2013, Goldenberg was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Goldenberg’s mom, Cheryl, describes that time as “extremely stressful, and heartbreaking to receive the diagnosis.” Daniel describes it as “tough at first, but then it got easy.” Now, Daniel says, it’s “not a big deal.”

He seems calm and stalwart, but he brings humor to the boys’ friendship, whereas Sam, earnest and attentive, says he plays the duo’s straight man. When it comes to his health, though, Daniel is “straight up,” Staveley says. “He takes it in stride, very low-key on the emotional end,” Cheryl says. From the beginning, Daniel wanted to give himself his insulin shots. He educated his friends about the condition, matter-of-factly staying behind when he needed to measure his blood sugar. “He doesn’t care if his friends watch him,” Cheryl says. “It doesn’t stop him from doing anything.”

“I greatly admire what he does every single day to stay alive, really,” Sam says.

His pick for Home Runs that Help was easy. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) agreed to partner with him, setting up the Dingers for Diabetes fundraiser on its website. The boys surpassed their goal by roughly half, raising more than $1,400.

When Sam reflects on contributors’ support, he gets philosophical. “Even if the people weren’t in our community, they became a part of it when they [gave],” he says of donors from outside St. Louis Park. He cites tikkun olam, a Jewish concept taught at HMJDS as one of the school’s core values. It refers to acts of kindness done for the purpose of healing the world.

“Sam wanted to impact someone in his life, although it wasn’t like he was personally benefiting from it,” Cheryl says of his decision to spotlight JDRF.

“To make a kid’s life better who has to deal with diabetes—maybe not even if it helps them in their lifetime, but can help other people—that would just be awesome,” Sam says.

On the day of the International Power Showcase in Miami, Daniel streamed Sam’s performance at his home.
“I was a bit nervous,” Sam admits.

“I was excited,” Daniel says.