Alumna establishes foundation in memory of 13-month-old son Alexander

Alison Thien Plotas ’95 and her husband Pete lost their 13-month-old son Alexander in 2011 due to respiratory complications from a severe form of immune deficiency after a successful bone marrow transplant.

“We did everything we could for him, which gives us peace,” Plotas said.

She described the experience as an unexpected journey, and it’s a journey that lives on for Alison, Pete and their daughter Ariana in their effort to help other children, parents, and families facing similar crises. 

Their BE GREAT Foundation, established in 2011, hosted the second annual Seek and Find Dr. Bear Family Walk in Rockville, Maryland on Saturday, May 18. More than 400 supporters from 18 states participated in the event, which raised $23,000 for the Children’s National Medical Center — $13,000 more than last year’s event.

The Seek and Find event includes a one-mile walk along a nature trail where participants look for treasures hidden in the woods. While in-town participants are walking the Rockville Millennium Trail, out-of-towners were encouraged to show their support by taking a walk on their own and posting photos to the BE GREAT Foundation Facebook page or on Twitter.

Plotas invites Foresters to mark their calendars for next year’s May 17, 2014 walk. Even if they can’t attend in person, they can participate virtually. 

The BE GREAT Foundation enables advancements in curative treatments for children with immune deficiency by supporting improvements in bone marrow transplantation, medical equipment and educational programs for parents. Plotas says the foundation has established itself in its four programs in the last 18 months. Those programs include helping to raise $5 million to build a Center for Diagnostic Immunology & Transplantation at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., the development of cord blood donation kits, bone marrow transplant family education, and fast tracking diagnosis of Severe Combined Immune Deficiency among newborns.

In addition to the annual walk and the new EAT and BE GREAT at Home fundraiser, individual donations have come through in the form of running marathons for BE GREAT, hosting Jeans to Work Day events, and more. 

The foundation recently was featured on the local “Meet Your Neighbor” video series, and Plotas and her husband were interviewed by Fox News’ Shannon Bream on “America’s News Headquarters” on May 5.

Despite the sadness surrounding her son’s death, Plotas feels thankful to have been educated along the way and to have spent so much time with her son. Some parents who lose children unexpectedly in car accidents, for example, do not have the same fortune, she said.

“We knew when to rally with Alexander. We also stood there when it was too much for him,” she said. “You have a hole in your heart forever, but you learn to live with it.”