POLAND — David Plotkin was playing baseball with his son, Max, in 2007 when the 3-year-old took a tumble. Alarmed, Plotkin and his wife, Annemarie, took their son to the hospital for an X-ray.
What the doctors found was devastating: Their child was diagnosed with stage four B-Cell Lymphoma one day before his fourth birthday. The rare pediatric cancer was in the bone of his right arm and it had metastasized to around his left knee.
The outlook was grim, but because of their discovery and quick treatment, Max, now 10, beat all the odds.
“I call it the blessing of the fall,” Plotkin said at Tuesday’s Dunk Your Kicks launch event at Camp Fernwood in Poland.
From that day six years ago, Plotkin and his family in New Jersey started The Max Cure Foundation to help fund research for pediatric cancer and to help alleviate the financial burden for families battling the disease.
The national 501(c)(3) charity has raised funds in states from New York to Texas to California but, up until now, never in Maine.
This summer, The Max Cure Foundation has partnered with the Maine Camp Experience, a community of Maine’s premier camps, to bring the Dunk Your Kicks fundraising campaign to the state. It is also the first time the organization is partnering with an overnight camp for the social action program.
The premise behind Dunk Your Kicks is simple: People donate their used athletic shoes such as tennis, running and walking shoes, to the Max Cure Foundation. The foundation sells them for $1 per pair to an international clothing recycler, who cleans and refurbishes them in Ohio. After that, the shoes are sold at an affordable price to third world and developing countries.
To date, the campagin has collected more than 100,000 pairs of shoes.
“Our primary mission is to fund the development of less toxic treatment for children battling cancer,” Plotkin said. “There hasn’t been a pediatric cancer drug developed in more than 30 years and the drugs that are being used today on children are adult drugs.”
Along with funding research, The Max Cure Foundation also has helped more than 60 families with monthly gift cards to Target stores for necessities.
Camp Fernwood, a girls summer camp, and the Maine Camp Experience’s 30 other summer camps hope to gather 1,000 pairs of sneakers or more, which would mean $1,000 for the charity. Camp Fernwood has also promised to match dollar for dollar its camper sneaker donations, up to $1,000, in fundraising money.
“The camps have been doing social actions for years and years in Maine, and this is the next step in teaching and engaging campers in philanthropy,” Laurie Kaiden, from Maine Camp Experience, said.
For the Plotkin family, the foundation’s fundraising campaign has a two-fold benefit. It not only raises money, but it keeps shoes out of landfills and it provides affordable footwear to people who previously may have had to go barefoot.
“The shoes have been distributed in Guatemala, Africa, Honduras, Bolivia, Poland and South America,” Plotkin said. “Ultimately, we’re going to tag the sneakers so kids who Dunk their Kicks can follow where their sneakers end up.”
And as for Max, he is an active little boy who is a huge fan of Syracuse University.
“He is in remission right now. We just take it one day at a time,” Plotkin said.
To start a Dunk Your Kicks in your school or community, visit http://maxcurefoundation.org/dunk.html.