MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. -- David Plotkin never thought cancer would touch the lives of his family, but in 2007, his 4-year-old son Max was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma.
Max, now cancer-free, was the inspiration for Plotkin's creation of the Max Cure Foundation. High-end clothing boutique Churchills hosted a shopping benefit Thursday for the nonprofit organization, which is dedicated to funding pediatric cancer research.
"The primary focus is to fund less toxic treatment for children battling cancer," Plotkin said, adding that the foundation has raised $2 million since 2007. Attendees of the Churchills benefit that night shopped at a 15 percent discount, and were given a $100 gift card for every $1,000 they spent.
Churchills customer Catherine Zeta-Jones, who lives in Bedford with her husband, Michael Douglas, a throat cancer survivor, was the honorary chair of the event.
Many guests hoped to catch a glimpse of Zeta-Jones at the benefit, but Max Cure PR representative M.J. Pedone said the actress was filming a movie that evening and could not make it.
"We’re honored to have her on Team Max," Plotkin said.
In November 2011, Max Cure began its "Beyond Barriers" program, which helps inner city families deal with the financial pressures that accompany the emotional ordeal of having a child with cancer.
Qualeek, 9, and his family, of Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, were the first to benefit from the program and attended the benefit on Thursday. Qualeek, who was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2010 and is now in remission, was seen smiling and laughing at the event.
Plotkin said that 30 families across the country receive $250 to $1,000 Target gift cards every month to pay for their basic necessities, which takes some of the financial burden off of working parents.
Qualeek’s mother Felicia, an NYPD crossing guard, said she was able to go back to work with the program's help, easing some of her financial worries.
“They have helped us with so much,” she said.
In addition to this program and other fundraising initiatives, the foundation also underwrites a lab at Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital and gives grants to pediatric cancer research hospitals across the U.S.
Lisa Daniel, who is a co–chair of the event and whose husband Jonathan is on the foundation’s board, said her family is very close friends with the Plotkins.
“When Max was diagnosed it affected everybody,” she said. “It brings things into perspective." Her daughter Jayden, 9, she said, is Max’s girlfriend.