Couple Honored for Work with Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation

Beverly Deak, left, and Mark Abrams, right, were the recipients of the “Dream Big Award” last week. Courtesy photo

By Christine Sampson

For Beverly Deak and Mark Abrams of Sag Harbor, leading the Dream, Discover, Cure Foundation, which has now become the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation New York, was a labor of love that arose from their daughter Heather Abrams’s experience with a doctor whom the family credits with saving her life.

For their work in spreading the word, getting more people involved and raising what they estimate is more than $500,000 over several years, Ms. Deak and Mr. Abrams were honored last week as the recipients of PCRF New York’s “Dream Big Award.”

In an interview, the couple humbly acknowledged their own contributions and said they felt it was their responsibility to give back because they had been fortunate.

“When someone wants to honor you, you ask, ‘Did you really do enough to deserve this honor?’” said Ms. Deak, a retired research librarian, who did the bulk of the event planning for the Dream, Discover, Cure Foundation. “We’ve been with [Dr. Mitchell Cairo] a long time and have been with PCRF a long time, so it was a very, very nice honor, and very pleasant.”

“Bev, especially, did a fairly thankless job. There were lots of times that there were differences of opinion,” Mr. Abrams, a retired attorney, said. “I felt good that they honored Bev, and she was very deserving of it. As for me, I never feel I need it. I do what I do because it’s the right thing to do and it makes me feel good that I’m pulling my weight in terms of the world.”

Ms. Deak added, “We’re really lucky people. Everyone has bad things happen. There are gradations to it, certainly. We came out the other end in an extremely positive outcome.”

The Dream, Discover, Cure Foundation was absorbed under the auspices of PCRF in 2009, at which point Ms. Deak and Mr. Abrams had been involved for close to eight years. They remained involved, spreading the word and supporting the mission however they could.

“It’s not like it’s going to cancer care and it’s a big name and it’s faceless,” Mr. Abrams said. “This is very individual, very people and patient driven, family driven. “You see the guy, the actual recipient. He tells you what this trial is, what this protocol is. He has half a dozen kids stand up who have had successful treatment.”

They said their work was all in support of Dr. Cairo, who helped their daughter overcome a relapse of Hodgkin’s disease, a form of cancer, which she had been battling since 1999. Ms. Abrams, now 34, is just finishing up rotations in veterinary school.

“Dr. Cairo not only does these really amazing different types of cutting edge cancer treatment, he also he does a lot of sickle cell research, which you don’t hear about, and a lot of his research is on the fringe of curing sickle cell,” Ms. Deak said. “It’s a good thing for the parents to be at the events because it puts a face on it. It’s not just nice events that sound like a good cause. You spread the word to people that this is a serious cause.”