Zachary Bernstein was an avid soccer player and artist who earned good grades in school and enjoyed being a kid. Last May, he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. After months of treatment, he died on March 12, at age 11.
Throughout his battle, Zachary, a sixth-grader at Lynbrook South Middle School, was a “consummate fighter,” according to a family member who posted news of his death on the Friends of Zachary Fund page of the giveforward.com website. The fund was launched two weeks after his diagnosis, to help cover his medical expenses.
More than 700 people attended Zachary’s funeral on March 13 at the Boulevard-Riverside-Hewlett Chapel. Friends and family members spoke at the service, including his brother Matthew, an eighth-grader at South.
Zachary’s father, David Bernstein, said that his son’s “continued strength and never-give-up attitude gave me the energy to get up every day and push the medical community beyond their normal limits to help find a cure. In Zachary’s final moments, his need to console us was greater than the need for us to console him.”
David and his wife, Deena, scoured the country for doctors and treatments for their son over the past nine months. In a story in the Herald last October titled “Dreaming of the Cosmos,” David said that they had handpicked a medical team to treat their son.
Read the story here: Dreaming of the Cosmos
In the months after his diagnosis, Zachary didn’t let his condition slow him down. Last July he attended a Yankees game and met manager Joe Girardi and relief pitcher Mariano Rivera. Girardi invited Zachary onto the field and into the Yankees’ dugout and locker room, following a close win during which he fist-bumped all the players. He also attended a Miami Heat game in October, at which he and Matthew met NBA All-Stars LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
Zachary was also named an honorary captain of the New York Cosmos, and led the team onto the pitch at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium on Oct. 20. (He played for the Lynbrook Spartans before his diagnosis, and one of his dreams was to become a professional soccer player.) He warmed up with the team and went out to midfield for the pregame coin toss.