Cancer Research Advocate Richard Plotkin Is Today’s Honoree

Richard L. Plotkin graduated from the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton School of Finance & Commerce) in 1966 with a B.S. in Economics, followed by receiving a J.D. degree from Georgetown Law Center in 1969. He became a member of the New Jersey Bar in 1969 and following a one-year judicial clerkship, he joined Pitney Hardin & Kipp in New Jersey as an associate. In 1975, Richard became a partner in the firm and in 2011 retired from the successor firm of Day Pitney LLP, which is a large regional law firm with offices in Boston, Connecticut, New York City, New Jersey and Washington, DC.

Richard achieved substantial success as a trial lawyer in many noteworthy cases, including obtaining some of the largest judgments for commercial taxpayers in New Jersey in real property tax matters. As an attorney, Richard was appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court to be a member on the Supreme Court Committee on Taxation and was appointed by the Superior Court in 1996 to Chair a Mediation Panel that consisted of 20 seasoned attorneys selected by the Court to assist it in settling the more difficult cases on its calendar. Richard chaired that committee until 2008 when he retired as a partner from Day Pitney but remained with the firm as special counsel until May 2011 to conclude cases he was responsible for as of December 31, 2008.

At this point you might be wondering what makes Richard Plotkin worthy of Today’s Honoree, well below is the story of his life post retirement, which consequentially is also the reason he stepped down as partner in 2008.

In 2007, Richard’s grandson Max, on the eve of his fourth birthday, was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer (B Cell Lymphoma in the bone) and was treated at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City (MSKCC). The Plotkin’s formed The Max Cure Fund at MSKCC in May, 2007, for the purpose of underwriting an immune cell therapy lab at MSKCC which would and will treat children and young adults who did not respond to standard cancer treatments. More than 65% of patients who are treated in this lab are in remission today. Their goal is to raise $5 million and have currently contributed $813,000 since May of 2007.

In December 2008, the Plotkin family formed The Max Cure Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) public charity (MCF), with Richard taking on the role of Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer. Its mission is dedicated to advancing cures for pediatric cancers, funding the development of less toxic treatments for children, including the funding of an immune cell therapy lab at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center dedicated to alternative treatments for children battling the disease. MCF provides low-income families emotional and financial assistance and seeks to inspire children afflicted with cancer to face the disease with bravery. Since then Richard has devoted his time to MCF in its effort to make a difference in the area of pediatric cancer and because of his expertise has taken it a step further.

In that regard, Richard has consulted with environmental health advocates, including medical doctors, and traveled to California and Texas to learn more about the issue whether there is a link between chemicals in the environment and cancer in children. If Richard is to be convinced there is a such a link, he will then be involved with those advocates on ways to reduce the risk of cancer in kids from environmental sources.

He has also been active with respect to the efforts of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Pediatric Cancer to pass what is commonly referred to as the Creating Hope Act. Just this past Monday, July 10, 2012, the bill was passed and signed by President Obama. This act gives incentive to pharmaceutical companies to invest funds towards research into drugs to treat children with cancer among other rare childhood diseases.

Richard has also offered to assist the group of pediatric cancer foundations, currently numbering about 30 or so, that formed what is commonly known as Project Collaborate (for the Childhood Cancer Community) in their effort to establish collaboration among childhood cancer foundations in the areas of research, awareness, advocacy and family assistance.

In addition, Richard was asked by the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation (SWCRF) to join a committee within SWCRF looking into the feasibility of collaborating with other cancer foundations in the area of cancer research generally, including collaboration with pediatric cancer foundations, with SWCRF contributing not only funds to the potential collaborations, but also its extraordinary infrastructure developed over its 35 year history, including world renowned scientists in the area of cancer research that would assist in the vetting of potential applicants for grants.

Richard was particularly instrumental in MCF’s forming the Roar Beyond Barriers initiative to financially, and emotionally assist low-income families battling pediatric cancer who are located in New York City and in other areas of the country. During the spring of 2011, Richard attended the opening in Austin, Texas, of the Livestrong Center and heard a speech by Lance Armstrong, founder of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Mr. Armstrong referenced an oncologist named Dr. Harold Freeman, affiliated with The Ralph Lauren Cancer Center in Harlem, who had stated that of the 600,000 annual deaths from cancer in the United States, 200,000 of them are preventable.

Richard speculated that included among those 200,000 preventable annual deaths were an inordinate number of children from poor families. Dr. Freeman has said, “Poverty should not be a death sentence.” Richard agrees and is determined that MCF through its Roar Beyond Barriers initiatives in New York City and in other geographic areas can provide support in the form of satisfying the needs described above for poor families battling pediatric cancer.

Roar Beyond Barriers:

MCF has developed a program (launched in November 2011) to assist low-income families battling pediatric cancers that reside in New York City, New Jersey, Louisiana, California, Florida, Connecticut and on Long Island. Efforts are underway to expand this program to other regions of the country. This program will allow communities to support local families.

The “Roar Beyond Barriers” initiatives have selected seven families being treated in New York City, one from Harlem (a 14 year old girl with brain cancer), four from Brooklyn (a 9 year old boy with brain cancer, an 11 year old boy with leukemia, and two teenage boys with osteosarcoma), one in Staten Island (a 6 year old girl with brain cancer, legally blind) and one in Portchester (a 3 year old boy with brain cancer, legally blind). Seven families from New Jersey are included in the program ranging in age from 2 to 17 years old with five different forms of cancer among the seven children.

Currently, the Long Island Initiative consists of two families, one with a 13 year-old girl with brain cancer and the other with a 5-year-old boy with leukemia. There are two families in Louisiana who are part of the program, an 8 year-old girl with leukemia and a 9 year-old boy with lymphoma.

Three families in Connecticut are in the program (a 12 year old boy with leukemia, a 6 your old girl with leukemia, and a 2 year old boy with brain cancer). MCF has communicated with hospitals in Florida (where 4 families will be identified) and California (where 3 families will be identified). It is also anticipated that 3 families will be added to the program in Minnesota. Since November of 2011 $40,500 has been allocated to this cause which has gone directly towards the families. PNC Foundation gave a $25,000.00 grant in 2011 that has been specifically earmarked for NY Roar Beyond Barriers

John, David, Trent and Richard

Former professional athletes have joined the Roar Beyond Barriers team including Trent Tucker, formerly with the NBA NY Knicks (1982 – 1991) and World Champion Chicago Bulls (1992 – 1993) and John Franco, formerly with the NY Mets (1990 – 2004) among other teams in his 21-year major league baseball career. Trent and John have agreed to be the first members of the MCF Circle of Pride Ambassadors and will lead the way with Team Max Cure to make a difference in the world of pediatric cancer.

By working in New York City with Stephen D. Hassenfeld Children’s Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders, Langone Medical Center at NYU; in New Jersey with Tomorrows Children’s Institute, Hackensack University Medical Center; in Connecticut with Connecticut Children’s Medical Center; in Louisiana with the Louisiana State University Health Shreveport Center; in California with the Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland; in Florida with Nemours Children’s Hospital; and on Long Island with Stony Brook Hospital and Long Island Jewish Hospital, MCF is able to determine which low income families are in need of support based on their economic status and other issues.

Visit Richard Plotkin for more information.

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