Foundation and town raise money for teenager fighting cancer

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Leo Laroque standing with Betty Penavalle and Elaine St Martin at a special fundraiser for his fight against cancer. Courtesy photo
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When someone in North Attleborough faces illness, trauma, or hardships, residents will show their support to overcome these challenges.

So when the town found out that Leo Larocque, 14, was re-diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer in January, they immediately began to fundraise for his treatment.

The Christopher J Cornetta foundation held a fundraiser and screening of “80 for Brady” for Leo on Feb. 4 at the Showcase Cinema de Lux. Leo received cheers from friends, family, and Betty Pensavalle and Elaine St. Martin, the founding members of the original Over 80 for Brady Club. All proceeds from ticket sales went toward Laroque’s family. His father, Leo Laroque Sr., said the foundation raised $3,000 from ticket sales that night.

“Leo was able to eat some food from the cinema and he enjoyed it,” Leo Sr. said.  “We all got to meet Elaine and Betty after the film. It was nice to get Leo up and about and the movie was pretty funny and enjoyable.”

Panvalle, 94, and St. Martin, 95, said they were happy to attend the fundraiser and hoped Leo will win his fight against cancer.

“He’s a good kid,” Panvalle said of Leo. “We’re raising money for a good cause.”

Leo was first diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma at the age of 8. Ewing’s Sarcoma is an extremely rare form of bone cancer typically occurring in children and young adults. In 2018, Leo began treatment. He underwent 14 rounds of high-dose chemotherapy and lost his lower left leg to amputation. Despite the treatment, Laroque kept enjoying his school days–playing football for the North Attleborough Jets and earning the title of high honor student in eighth grade.

In November 2022, doctors found Leo’s post-cancer screens were clear, but after his mother, Heather, discovered a lump on his shoulder three weeks later, doctors performed another scan.

On Jan. 9, 2023, Leo’s parents were devastated to learn that his cancer had returned, and a second chemotherapy treatment was required.

In response to the news, North Attleborough residents immediately began raising money and showing their support.

Throughout town, signs that read “Leo Strong” are often found in front of houses and businesses as a display of support for the 14-year-old. The signs feature a design of a football and the number nine as an homage to his jersey and love for the sport.

Leo’s aunt, Tayla Ripely, organized a Gofundme to raise money for her nephew and his family.

As of Feb. 10, $17,975 has been donated towards the $50,000 goal. Donations can be made here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/LeoStronger.