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Hemelt: Perry��s Posse shows strength through love

The first time I met Jo Ann Levet, she told me the story of her son dying from cancer.

It was a couple of weeks ago, and Jo Ann had come by the newspaper office to place a garage sale ad in our classified section, alerting the public to the upcoming Perry’s Posse Huge Garage Sale from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 15-17 at Garyville Gym, located off Church Street in Garyville at 127 GYO Road.

Perry’s Posse is named after Jo Ann’s son, Perry Levet, who died last year following a year-long battle with leukemia. Today, Perry’s Posse raises money to help River Region residents suffering with cancer.

Jo Ann patiently relayed the details of Perry’s struggle with the disease as I asked her how he and their family responded to the struggle.

She related stories of her son’s love of music, children and his own family.

She talked about the strength he showed in the cancer battle and how so many responded to him with gifts and well wishes.

“We knew toward the end that Perry just wasn’t going to get better,” Jo Ann said. “The doctor had pretty much told us there was nothing left to do for him short of a miracle, which is what we started praying for.

“You will try anything to help your loved one through it. That is what we did. You don’t want to ever give up.”

Tragically, Perry lost his battle in January of last year, but that sure has not stopped his loved ones from continuing on in his name in the war against cancer.

“I was just so amazed at how many other (cancer) patients are out there,” Jo Ann said. “We sit in our own little world with our own little loved ones and we don’t go any further. You don’t realize until you look around and ask around. Then, you realize just how many people, how many families are out there struggling with this cancer. It’s just horrible.”

Jo Ann said she needed to take time to grieve following her son’s death, but added after the first anniversary of Perry’s passing, she and her husband Larry decided the organization founded in her son’s name was going strong and they needed to be a part of it.

Perry’s godmother, Tanya Roccaforte, had already been there, leading the charge.

Tanya was there one night with Perry while he was in hospice care. They talked about the outpouring of support he was receiving, and Perry asked his aunt then to continue that mission by doing the same for others with cancer.

Tanya and more than a dozen others have done just that. As members of Perry’s Posse, she and others raise money to offer a little help to those fighting cancer by providing prayer books, gas cards, help with bill payments and tickets to specialty events like LSU football games and Saenger Theatre productions.

The groups fundraises to generate the money, and next weekend’s garage sale is a wonderful opportunity to find discounted items while helping out a cancer patient right here in the River Parishes.

After spending some time with Jo Ann Levet and Tanya Roccaforte, it’s easy for me to see these are two special women with hearts of gold and real desires to make things a little easier for those suffering through cancer’s tragic blows.

Jo Ann said she has made up her mind when she sees someone who has lost a loved one to tell them just how much they are thought of and loved.

“You know it in your heart, but you feel like you don’t want to hurt their feelings or make them cry, but they need that,” she said. “They need to hear those wonderful stories about their loved ones. You’re going to cry. That’s going to happen, but it comforts.”

Perry’s Posse is certainly offering that comfort.

Stephen Hemelt is general manager and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.