Cancer survivor creates handmade dolls to raise funds for American Legion

Mary Rosalie Palmisano-Lovetro
Mary Rosalie Palmisano-Lovetro creates these exquisite handmade rag dolls and raffles them off for charity.

A St. Rose cancer survivor who created rag dolls by hand in order to raise money for those fighting the disease is now hoping proceeds from three new dolls will help generate funds for the American Legion.

Mary Rosalie Palmisano-Lovetro, 70, was diagnosed with breast cancer after doing a self examination in November 2009. She had surgery to remove the cancer and has been clear of it for four years.

Shortly after beating cancer, Lovetro spent weeks making two rag dolls that were auctioned off to raise $2,500 for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer foundation. Now, she hopes the new dolls will help support her two granddaughters’ trip to an acting showcase in Los Angeles while also providing much-needed funds for the American Legion.

Lovetro’s granddaughters, Hannah and Samantha Koch, have been invited to display their talent at iPOP!, the International Presentation of Performers that will be held in January. The performers who attend the event will study under the direction of professional coaches to develop and advance their skills. In addition, each of the young attendees will perform in front of judges that include top agents, managers, casting directors and industry professionals.

The trip will cost $9,000 but the family has already raised $3,100. They are hoping to raise the rest of the money during a raffle on May 24 that will be held at the American Legion in Kenner. Half of the money raised will be used for the girls’ trip while the other half will go to the American Legion.

Lovetro has continued to make the dolls despite having rheumatoid arthritis. However, Lovetro works through the pain knowing the joy the dolls will bring to a young child.

“My biggest dream is to make a doll and present it to a little child and see the joy and love in that child’s face. Knowing that this doll will be that child’s protector and that it will always be with them and never leave them,” Lovetro said.

Lovetro’s perseverance has also inspired her daughter, Trisha, who has made a quilt that honors members of the armed forces and first responders. The quilt, which will also be raffled off, is the first that Trisha has created.

“It was completely unexpected,” Trisha said of her experience making the quilt. “I was online looking for materials for the doll clothes and I came across a set of what they called panels. It was so beautiful that I could not resist purchasing what I believed to be four panels and I planned to use them to make something for the house. Well, it turned out that what I ordered was four yards of material. I asked mom what to do with it and she told me to make a quilt.”

Trisha said she came up with the idea to honor both military members and first responders because they worked hard to make homes safe during and after Hurricane Katrina.

The family is also thrilled to be able to give back to the American Legion, which supports soldiers and their families.

“I have several family members, including my husband, who were part of our armed forces,” Trisha said. “Our military risks so much, not just the soldiers, but their families as well. I am overjoyed to help them in this small way.”

Lovetro is just happy that she is still around after beating cancer to make the beautiful dolls,  which have helped raise money for important causes.

“Through the grace of God and my surgeon’s hands I was given the rest of my life to spend with my kid, grandkids and great-grandkid. I feel very fortunate that we caught (the cancer) when we did,” she said. “Knowing that these funds will assist other families of our armed forces achieve their dreams or help them in some way, as my granddaughters work towards learning and achieving theirs dreams and goals in life, is one of the reasons I make the dolls and donate them. This is my God-given talent and I will always use it to help when asked or when I see a need.”

The raffle will take place during a cochon de lait held at the American Legion in Kenner from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. on May 24. Tickets for the raffle can be purchased by calling (504) 491-5720 or emailing

The Kenner American Legion is located at 3740 Florida Ave.

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