Meet & greet for hope: Perry’s Posse welcomes patients

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, July 3, 2019

GARYVILLE – Since its inception in 2014, Perry’s Posse has helped nearly 500 cancer patients get through the worst time in their lives.

The local non-profit group offers everything from gift cards to prayers to just a sympathetic ear on the bad days.

Of course the group hears the “thank you’s” and the “bless you’s,” but it often also hears this question: “Why are you doing this for me when you don’t even know me?”

The Posse was determined to change that.

A few months ago the group of local ladies who make up Perry’s Posse began planning its first Meet and Greet for Hope Celebration, an event where patients and Posse members could get to know each other and put faces to names.

“The goal was to get together so they could meet us and we could meet them, because they didn’t know who we are,” said Perry’s Posse founder Tanya Roccaforte. “And we really didn’t know who they are. We get phone calls all the time and they say, ‘I just can’t believe that a group of women who are total strangers to me reached out to me and have been so kind and generous.’ So we started thinking, we’ve got to meet these people.”

Pauline Robertson shows off the hat she won as a door prize at Perry’s Posse’s first Meet and Greet for Hope event Saturday in Garyville to her companion, Allen Vollion.

Roccaforte said the event far exceeded her expectations. Some 40 patients and their guests were treated to a Hawaiian-themed party, where they dined on jambalaya and white beans, salad and cake and were able to take pictures on a beach-themed backdrop.

Each patient received a goody bag and many in attendance left with one of the many door prizes donated to the group. Each patient also received a prayer quilt handmade by a group of Posse members spearheaded by Penny Laiche.

And while the members of the Posse offered words of encouragement to those in attendance, it also got to hear stories of survival from several of the patients.

“When you look out in that audience and see the faces,” Roccaforte said. “It’s like a baby you’re trying to support.”

It was Roccaforte’s nephew, Perry Levet, who planted the seeds for the organization just before he died of leukemia in 2014. Grateful for all the support and encouragement he had received from his community, Perry urged his aunt and Godmother, Roccaforte, to go forth and help others in the community with cancer.

Larry Levet, Perry’s father, said he never imagined that simple wish would become the movement it has become.

“I thought it was going to be something very small and they would help a few people,” he said. “But Tanya couldn’t do anything just small. She dove into this and took the bull by the horns and got the group together with a bunch of good helpers and it just blossomed.”

Patient R.W. Stoker said Perry’s Posse has been a gift to him.

“It means I’m not alone,” he said. “It’s hard to describe. Perry’s Posse gives you monetary gifts, but that isn’t it. It’s knowing that people are praying for you and knowing the community is there for you. And all you have to do is call them and ask them. They stop what they’re doing to come help you.”