GARYVILLE, LA (WAFB) - Perry Levet from Garyville, Louisiana was diagnosed with leukemia in 2013. It was a very serious case. His illness was a childhood disease, curable in most children, but deadly for adults.
Perry went to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas and fought a long, unrelenting battle, but with his total immune system down to zero, his body gave out and Perry died just three months after his diagnosis. He was only 44-years old.
Perry’s godmother, Tanya Roccaforte, says Perry had a wish.
“Before his death,” Roccaforte explained, “Perry asked if I could get some family and friends together who could relate to what he was going through and form an organization. We could name it as we would. It was totally up to us.”
“The jest of the organization was to raise money, however we saw fit, to help cancer patients in the River Parishes: St. John, St. James, and St. Charles,” said Roccaforte.
Little did Roccaforte know at the time, but that was to become Perry’s dying wish.
Roccaforte began speaking with family and friends who had all been affected by cancer, either directly or indirectly, about her godson’s wish.
“We know what this demonic disease does,” she said. “So because of what we know, it made us even more anxious and determined to get out there and make as much money as we can for cancer patients and their caregivers.”
So Perry’s Posse was formed.
“We have no salary. We have no CEO,” Roccaforte said. “If we raised an amount of $50,000, every single cent goes back to our patients.”
The main fundraiser for Perry’s Posse is an annual garage sale held at the Garyville Community Gym.
But in October of 2018, tragedy struck.
“We were supposed to have this huge garage sale, and it was supposed to be held November 2, 3, and 4,” Roccaforte said. As she began recounting the events of last year, her eyes filled with tears, her voice quivering.
“We had worked for months getting things priced and set up for this garage sale. The gym was packed to capacity. The buildings about, maybe I’d say 15,000 square feet, give or take a little. We had hundreds of tables covered with everything from furniture to rugs, anything and everything, you name it, it was in there. We were anticipating to make anywhere between 20 to 25 thousand dollars on the merchandise that we had.”
Roccaforte paused to compose herself. Then she continued, again, through tears.
“And then on Halloween night 2018, the gym caught fire, so we all ran and went to the fire. The fire department was there like ASAP, but it was all engulfed. I mean, just burning out of control. In a matter of a few minutes, we lost everything. The gym and every single item in it was completely destroyed," Roccaforte said.
But Roccaforte and the members of Perry’s Posse never lost faith. They prayed and prayed. God heard and answered their petitions.
“God brushed us off and He sent things our way,” Roccaforte said, smiling now through the tears. “People started calling and donating things, storing things in their houses and in their garages. We had businesses calling, telling us, ‘You can use our warehouses.’ So we were truly blessed.”
Two such people were Bubbie Hydel and his son-in-law, Carrie Brignack. They own a strip mall shopping complex in Laplace and just happened to have an empty building.
“Bubbie [Hydel] called and said he’d be willing to let us use it free of charge for three to four months,” Roccaforte said. “And he said we could have our garage sale there too, so we hired moving companies to haul all these things from everybody’s houses and from there it’s just been snowballing.”
Roccaforte’s long time friend, Clair Becnel, has been associated with Perry’s Posse since it’s beginning in 2014. Clair called WAFB and told us the story about the fire and nominated Perry’s Posse for Hand It On.
And the tears flowed again as we presented Roccaforte with three $100 bills to go toward Perry’s Posse.
“Oh God, our Clair, we love her,” a tearful Roccaforte said as she humbly accepted the gift. “I mean, she has been with us since day one. This is going on five years now that we’ve started up Perry’s Posse, and Clair has been on board with us ever since.”
“That’ll help a little?” I asked.
“Helps a lot. Helps a lot. This is awesome. Thank you Clair, and thank you Channel 9," Roccaforte answered.
The new date for the garage sale is March 8, 9, and 10. It will be held on Airline Highway in Laplace. Visit Perry’s Posse page on Facebook to find out not only how to donate items from your home, but also to view a list of items they already have that you may want to purchase.
Send nominations for Hand It On to HandItOn@wafb.com. Make sure to include your contact information, especially your phone number.