Alexis Feldman lost three of her grandparents to cancer, and now is helping a close friend fight the disease. As chair of CRI's Young Philanthropists, she is helping to make a new generation of motivated people aware of CRI's work and the hope that immunotherapy holds for ending cancer in their lifetimes.
Like a lot of young, attractive, and wealthy Manhattan residents, Alexis Feldman enjoys the good life, and she's willing to work hard for it.
Parties, nights out at clubs with friends, and shopping at the trendiest fashion boutiques balance out her focused career ambitions and her commitment to her family's real estate business.
But even these responsibilities and diversions aren't enough of an outlet for her energy and her passion for helping others. Alexis devotes her time to several charities, including The Mentoring Partnership of New York, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the Cancer Research Institute (CRI).
As chair of CRI's Young Philanthropists (YP) Council for four years, Alexis has mobilized other like-minded young professionals seeking to improve cancer treatment, bringing them together under the CRI banner to raise awareness of our mission and funds to support our research on the immune system to harness its cancer-fighting potential.
Through her work with CRI and with the members of the YP Council, Alexis is helping to make a new generation of motivated people aware of CRI's work and the hope that immunotherapy holds for ending cancer in their lifetimes.
What do you do professionally?
Alexis: I work at my family’s real estate company. We manage commercial real estate in downtown Manhattan.
What other charities are you involved with?
Alexis: Since 2007, I’ve been on the young professional advisory board of The Mentoring Partnership of New York. And I’m on the Future Direction Committee for NARAL Pro-Choice America.
What inspires you about the work of the Cancer Research Institute?
Alexis: I’m amazed by the Cancer Research Institute. I truly believe they are the future in this field. Years ago when I first met Jill O’Donnell-Tormey and Lynne Harmer, their explanation and passion for what CRI does introduced me to this field, because I’m not in the medical cancer profession. I have no connections to it. Once they told me what CRI does and what they represent, I looked into it more. Year after year now, I am constantly in awe by the work that they fund, in the work that they do, and the work they believe in.
How has cancer touched you?
Alexis: Unfortunately, I’ve lost three of my grandparents to different types of cancer. Also, unfortunately, I have a friend in their late 20s, who was diagnosed with cancer in the last few years. Luckily my friend is doing well, but it certainly is a different story when a friend of yours is diagnosed with cancer, and at an age like ours.
A lot of younger people perceive cancer as a disease for older people. Why should they be concerned about cancer?
Alexis: When I was growing up, I—and I think most people in my generation share this—thought that cancer was a disease your grandparents get. It was a vague, general kind of disease that affects old people. As I’ve gotten older, and my friends, too, we see that unfortunately people of all ages are affected by cancer. I don’t think the notion that it’s a grandparent’s or parent’s problem is how we think of it anymore. Most of the people on the CRI Young Philanthropists Council have friends their ages, mid-20s, who have been affected by cancer. Some Council members have been affected by cancer. When we have our events, young people see the word “cancer” and they want to come in and give back because it’s uncommon when someone hasn’t been affected by cancer. Someone’s relative, someone’s friend, themselves. Cancer affects us all.
How engaged in charity are younger people between the ages of 21 and 40 in general?
Alexis: It’s an easier feat to get young professionals and young adults to attend events. People are looking to have fun, socially engage, and people in that age group tend to be willing to show their support in that way. It’s a little more difficult to get them involved more actively on charity boards, you know, really getting your hands dirty type of work. It is going to be a certain type of person who wants to get their hands dirty.
This age group isn’t lacking in that respect. People our age do want to give back, they want to belong to a community, and they want to feel like they’re making a difference. Even though that might not be the majority, I think there is a large presence of young adults who want to do good, and going to an event is not enough for them. 99 percent of people will gladly go to an event to show support for a cause they believe in or to help out a friend, but then I think maybe it might be as high as 50 percent of people my age will want to do more.
I think people my age are getting more involved and they’re more aware than maybe even just a couple of years ago that they have the time and the energy. Instead of going home after work one time a month, you go to a meeting or you help out and become active. I think that when people get active, they get so much back that they like it and they tell their friends to get more involved.
Let’s talk about the other people like you who like to “get their hands dirty,” the other YP Council members. What is it about them that gets you excited?
Alexis: We’re very fortunate. Our council is an incredibly motivated, hard-working group of people who constantly impress me, constantly amaze me. They spend a lot of their time and energy working really hard on CRI. They really believe in CRI’s work, and that’s the reason they’ve gotten involved with this council. You can see it by the amount of time and effort they put into events, or speaking to other council members.
We just started these new happy hour events which are a lot smaller and low key than our other events. They’re not huge money makers and it’s more work for the council members but they wanted to do them because they do raise some extra money for CRI. These are young professionals from all backgrounds—fashion, finance, education, healthcare, real estate—it really is a diverse group of people. But they all share the common bond of CRI and the work they are doing, and because of that they work even harder.
What do you hope YP events accomplish?
Alexis: In all of our events, we have two goals. Obviously raising money is one of them. This is a charity board, and we are trying to support CRI by raising as much as we can for them. We set a fundraising goal at the beginning of the year and like to achieve it and go higher. But another important goal is raising awareness of CRI and its important mission. We’re just ending our fourth year as a council, so it’s a fairly new group. Because of that, people our age are just now learning about CRI.
It’s really important that we put CRI out there to people our age so young people can learn about us, come to the event, and show their support. We’re hoping to find people that want to donate now and continue supporting CRI as they get older. We’re building relationships with others our age, and hope they’ll like CRI and stay with CRI throughout their lifetime. It can lead to bigger events or major supporters and relationships that can last decades.
What’s your favorite YP event and why?
Alexis: It’s hard to pick one, but if I had to, my favorite is the Midsummer Social. Our fifth took place on August 23. It’s our signature event. I became involved with CRI because I attended this event, and now I’ve been chairing the board for four years. So I have a special place in my heart for this event, and I think other people do, as well. It’s a great night, a fabulous party, there’s a lot of enthusiasm in the air. Attendees always know every summer we have it, and they always come out and know they’re going to have a great time. I think the council members also enjoy this event, because it established us as a board. Since we’ve been having it for five years, people think of us and they think of the Midsummer Social. All our events are fun, but this event is special to all the council members, especially the ones who have been with CRI since the first or second event.
You hold these events in some of Manhattan’s choicest nightclubs. How do you pick the venues?
Alexis: These clubs like hosting charity events. We usually come in and hold our event before they normally open, so they like having us there, and we like working with them. And these are fabulous venues. People in their 20s want to go to these places, so it’s a draw to hold our events at places like Avenue or Tenjune. It gives good exposure to both our cause and to the venue, and it’s to our mutual advantage to be affiliated with one another. We’ve been very fortunate to make and build such good relationships with our event partners.
Have you heard of any love connections or new friendships coming out of a YP event?
Alexis: The YP event really does cultivate new friendships and connections. I’ve heard of people dating from our second Midsummer Social, when some publication said this is the event to meet your future spouse. People got really excited about that. These events do open worlds to people meeting and becoming friends. Council members have been introduced to friends of mine from other areas of my life, and they’ve spoken, and through networking they were able to get someone else a job, for example. Whenever you get a group of young enthusiastic people in a room to do good, good things will happen—socially, professionally, meeting new people is always nice and you never know what can happen.
How do you find time for charity work?
Alexis: It’s definitely a part-time job, and can sometimes be a full-time job. But when you’re passionate about something you make time even if you don’t necessarily have the time. I feel sometimes my work for CRI is hours of work a week. They say if you love something you’ll never work a day in your life, and that’s how I feel about charity work. I just have a passion for being involved with an organization I really believe in. And I’m fortunate enough to have been introduced to CRI a number of years ago. If you don’t feel passionate about what you do then it might be harder to make the time. I just happen to love being part of the CRI world, so I enjoy carving out the time that it needs, and making more time if need be.
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