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Max Cure Vice-Chair Attends RBB Graduation

Author: Richard Plotkin, MCF Vice-Chairman

Max and Qualeek (3)I recently had the pleasure of attending the 5th grade graduations of my grandson, Max Plotkin, and of Qualeek McNeil. These 11 year old boys have much in common in addition to the fact they are looking forward in September to entering into middle school, including the fact they were both afflicted by childhood cancers at young ages, Max on the eve of his 4th birthday and Qualeek when he was 6 years old.  Max was diagnosed with B-Cell Lymphoma and Qualeek with brain cancer.  Qualeek, due to the chemotherapy treatment he received, is partially deaf, one of the insidious side effects experienced by pediatric cancer survivors.  Max is considered a childhood cancer survivor whereas Qualeek still goes for periodic treatments but thankfully every indication is he, too, will be a survivor of pediatric cancer.

Richard and Max 5th grade graduationMax graduated from the Smith School in Tenafly, New Jersey, an upscale suburban community, just minutes from Manhattan.  Qualeek graduated from P.S. 309 in the Bedford Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, also just minutes from Manhattan.  Despite their respective proximities to Manhattan, the communities in which these two boys reside are as different as two communities could be.  However, what was not different was the pride felt by the parents and relatives of those graduating from the 5th grade and the joy that filled the two school auditoriums, one in Tenafly and one in Bedford Stuyvesant. A significant moment for me at Qualeek’s graduation, in addition to Qualeek winning a medal placed around his neck for his participation in music activities, came from one of the speakers who looked directly at the children, all of whom appeared to be African American or Hispanic, telling them that if they work hard and continue in school, there is no reason why they could not become doctors or lawyers or indeed, as stated by the speaker, “as recent events have proven, even President of the United States.”  Wow, that was a powerful message and reinforced how significant it is that this country elected, and then re-elected, an African American as President.  The program distributed at Qualeek’s graduation prominently displays the following words on the top of the cover page, “We Believe, We Will Achieve.”

Qualeek was among the first three children whose families were included in the Roar Beyond Barriers program launched in New York City in November, 2011. He and his family attended our Family Day Carnivals in East Hampton during the summers of 2012 and 2013, having stayed at my home in Amagansett during their 2012 visit.  Qualeek and his mother, Felicia, attended the Gala on the eve of the September, 2012 Golf Outing with Trent Tucker’s All4Kids Foundation and met celebrity guests such as Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, John Starks, Greg Anthony and Trent Tucker, all having played for the Knicks, and Mike Woodson (then coach of the Knicks) and Howard Cross former NFL All-Pro player for the Giants – and many other celebrity athletes and entertainers. A special friendship developed between Max and Qualeek at these events, a friendship that came about because it is evident that childhood cancers do not discriminate based on race, creed, or socio economic circumstances.

Richard and Qualeek graduationI was honored when, several months ago, Felicia told me that Qualeek asked if I could attend his graduation (I told her I would not miss it for the world) and was particularly moved when I saw the smile on his face as he saw me waiting outside P.S. 309 as he and Felicia approached the school for Qualeek’s special day. I quickly understood how significant the Roar Beyond Barriers program is not only in that it financially assists low income families battling cancer in their children, but it also gives the message to the children afflicted with cancer that others care about them.  That I was selected by Qualeek to be one of his four guests, made me realize that The Max Cure Foundation is indeed making a difference in the lives of children with cancer and their families.

Meet Manijeh and Her Family

For the month of February The Max Cure Foundation would like to honor the Ryan family as our Roar Beyond Barriers featured family. Manijeh, the Ryan’s oldest child, and only daughter is a brave 14-year-old who has been battling brain cancer for about five years. Manijeh started having seizures when she was 3 years old, which as it turns out, was caused by a brain tumor which was initially benign. In 2010 the Ryan family was given the news no parent ever wants to hear, the tumor had become cancerous.

Manijeh and Family 2012Over the years, with radiation and bi-weekly chemotherapy treatments, Manijeh’s medial team was not able to shrink the entire tumor however we are happy to share that as of right now, her chemotherapy is over and the cancer is gone! Even though the diagnosis is good, Manijeh continues to have seizures and requires continuous medication.   She will require continued care as those children that survive have a ten times greater mortality rate due to the increased risk of heart and liver disease as well as recurrence of the cancer. “Families facing such challenges have to stay positive” Amos said during an interview at Max Cure’s August 2013 event. With such positive surroundings, Manijeh has the inspiration she needs to continue to fight this battle with bravery.

Amos Ryan EH BasketballManijeh is supported by her loving family and friends including her younger brother, Jalen, her Mother Canela, and her Father, Amos. Amos Ryan is a former high school (East Hampton High School) and collegiate (Southampton College) basketball star who, while in college, went on to be ranked among the nation’s top rebounders. Amos came to this country as a teenager from Union Island in the Grenadines. Following graduation from college, Amos became a police officer in New York City, a position he continues to hold. The Max Cure Foundation recently awarded Amos with the Roar Beyond Barriers Award on August 28, 2013 for his honor, bravery, integrity and the unconditional love he had shown for his family and community.

Manijeh’s Mom stated while the family was included in the Roar Beyond Barriers program that it “has been a great help. It’s taken a weight off so that we can focus on the medical part. If it weren’t for the Plotkin’s foundation, we probably would have our lights shut off.”

The Max Cure Foundation has provided support in excess of $260,000 to 77 families in 12 states from 21 different hospitals. Currently those families receiving support are located in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington. You can help support the program by making a donation here and by starting your own Dunk Your Kicks collection. Together we will “Roar For a Cure” until one is found.

Max Cure Friend Brightens Smiles on Christmas

Pediatric cancerRichard Plotkin, Vice Chairman of The Max Cure Foundation (MCF) visited one of the Roar Beyond Barriers, NYC, families during the holidays at their new home on Staten Island.  The Christmas tree was decorated with festive and religious ornaments, signaling the joy and serenity of this holiday season and the hope along with the anticipated prosperity for the year ahead.  Grace, age 9, had made the paper snowflake hanging from the ceiling over the tree. Her proud parents were all smiles as MCF brought gifts donated by a friend (who has requested to remain anonymous) of Max Cure Foundation for Grace and Nikki, her 8 year-old sister.

american girl dollThe presents, which were placed under the tree, included two gift certificates to American Girl Doll’s Manhattan store to allow Grace and Nikki to purchase two American Girl dolls, and outfits. The friend of MCF facilitated for Grace and Nikki the dream of many young girls to take their American Girl dolls to the retail store for the experience of a lifetime. Grace is anxious to be the “make – believe mother” of her special doll, who she will proudly name when she gets to the store, looking into her doll’s eyes with the love and emotion she will hopefully someday experience as a “real life” mother.

Nikki on the other hand will not be able to look into her doll’s eyes with the same expectations and hope. Nikki is blind and she has brain cancer. Indeed, no one knows what the year ahead will bring for Nikki or if she will ever experience the joy of motherhood that awaits Grace. Nikki for years has been battling this horrific disease that robbed her of her sight and continues to take her childhood, and potentially her future. Since May, 2012, this family has been part of the Max Cure Foundation Roar Beyond Barriers program in New York City which financially assists low income families battling childhood cancers.

The friend of MCF heard of the family’s situation and wanted to give the girls special Christmas gifts.  The family has received and continues to receive gift cards each month from MCF to be used at a local Target Store to purchase food and other necessities. The New York City program assists families being treated at NYU Cancer Institute, NYU Langone Medical Center, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.  This program in New York City is supported by PNC Foundation with annual grants of $25,000, having been given to MCF since the launch of the program in 2011.  The Roar Beyond Barriers program currently assists over 40 low income and military families from around the country who are battling cancer in their children, with over 15 additional families having been part of the program since its inception. Of the 15 children in the latter families they have either gone into remission or passed away. 

Until last year, Grace and Nikki’s family lived in a basement apartment on Staten Island. Nikki, who is wheelchair bound had a very difficult time. Hence, they were forced to move into an apartment with wheelchair access.  Having a hard time finding a suitable apartment that would accommodate a wheelchair, this family called upon The Max Cure Foundation for advice and guidance.  Max Cure Foundation made a phone call to a prospective landlord, who, following that call entered into a lease with the family for their current apartment. When asked in an interview about what MCF means to them, the father replied, “We cannot thank MCF enough for everything they have done for us! The money I make goes towards bills. It is hard and so frustrating. We just barely make ends meet. I get paid bi-weekly, so that is extremely hard.  Again, thank you so much for everything.”

After visiting with the family over the holidays, Richard stated “I can truly say that my visit this past weekend with Nikki, Grace and their parents underscored for me the truism – It is better to give than to receive.”

Match a DunkThe Roar Beyond Barriers program has done remarkable things for these families and will continue to do so with your help! Donate today by “Matching a Dunk” online or you can mail your donation to:

The Max Cure Foundation
1350 Avenue of the Americas
2nd. Floor
New York, NY 10019

#DunkYourKicks and #RoarForACure