Amos Ryan, who first came to East Hampton as a teenager at the invitation of a pen pal whose sailboat he’d tended on Union Island in the Grenadines, and who was to attain educational and professional goals that some here doubted he would, now faces a serious challenge indeed inasmuch as his and his wife Canela’s 14-year-old daughter, Manijeh, has been diagnosed with brain cancer.
“We lived just two blocks from Memorial Sloan-Kettering, and had no financial problem, and yet, despite that, the stress was unbelievable,” Richard Plotkin, a part-time Amagansett resident, said Saturday evening at Luly Duke’s house before the Three Mile Harbor fireworks got under way.
Plotkin was referring to the ordeal his and his son David’s families have undergone after David’s son, Max, was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer (B-cell lymphoma) the day before his 4th birthday. The 9-year-old is in remission now, his grandfather said.
As a result, the Plotkins began the Max Cure Foundation to help families of limited means whose children were stricken with cancer and to raise as much money as they could to fund pediatric cancer research. In due course, the Plotkins formed a financial and familial alliance with the Stewarts — Jim, Brigid, Katy, and Robert — of Sag Harbor after it became known that Katy had been diagnosed in April 2009 with a rare form of liver cancer. She was to die, at the age of 12, in January 2011. Her parents, both educators here, have established a scholarship fund in her name.
Just as was the case with the Stewarts, the Max Cure Foundation has included the Ryans, who live in Medford, among its Long Island beneficiaries. “We are providing them with a monthly stipend of $500, and we are also helping a family from Hampton Bays,” said the elder Plotkin, adding that Max Cure is extending its reach. “We’re registered as a not-for-profit organization in 40 states . . . we’re helping six families in California. . . .”
Amos Ryan, who has been since 2005 a New York City police officer — he’s based at the 107th precinct in Queens — will probably best be remembered here for his basketball prowess. He was a raw talent when he arrived at East Hampton High in 1992, but Ed Petrie, the state’s winningest public high school coach, turned the thickset 6-foot-3-inch Union Islander into a strong inside player who went on to be ranked among the nation’s top rebounders when he played at Suffolk Community and Southampton Colleges.
Ed Petrie said, “He was a terrific kid. He came from a very little island that I’d never heard of before and the day he came into the gym he was smiling from ear to ear. He had played basketball but not a whole lot. He was a powerful rebounder, 6-3, but he played much bigger. Other kids would just fall off him. In his senior year, we went 15 and 5 and Amos averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds a game. His attitude was terrific. He worked hard and he was the type of person who was a pleasure to be around, and of course we all feel for him and the situation with his daughter.”
For seven years, Ryan, following his initial visit with the sailing couple, lived with Rein Griesmer, a retired school administrator here and in Southampton, and with Griesmer’s son, John, a teammate of his on Bonac’s basketball team in the early 1990s.
Both Griesmers said during telephone conversations this week that they greatly admired Ryan’s drive.
“He was pretty weak in reading when he came here,” said the elder Griesmer. “Some people thought he wouldn’t finish anything, but he proved them wrong. He graduated from East Hampton High School, he drove every day from here to Selden when he went to Suffolk Community, and he graduated there too. He did well at Southampton College also. Whenever I asked him what he’d like to be, he said he’d either like to be in the military or a policeman, and now he’s a police officer. We went to see him graduate from the Police Academy at Madison Square Garden. . . . He’s a success story, in spite of all the odds. He deserves whatever comes — he’s worked hard for everything he’s got.”
Canela Ryan, who’s from Southampton, said their daughter had seizures when she was 3 years old, caused, as it turned out, by a brain tumor that initially was benign but which was found to have become cancerous in 2010. “They weren’t able to get it all. She’s had radiation and she’s still on chemotherapy [at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park] every other week. We’re there all day, from 10 in the morning to 6 or 7 at night. She’s about to go into ninth grade — she wants to stay in school. She’s had to miss some school, though her eighth-grade year was better. We’re hoping the chemo will shrink the tumor all the way.”
As for the Max Cure Foundation’s monthly support, Manijeh’s mother, who lost her full-time position with the Bank of America’s Shirley branch and now works part time at the bank’s Lake Grove office, said, “It’s been a great help. It’s been going to pay for medication, our oil bills. . . . It’s taken a weight off so that we can focus on the medical part. The police department also had a fund-raiser for us last year.”
If it weren’t for the Plotkins’ foundation, she said in parting, “we probably would have our lights shut off.”