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JT Palooza: Recent family benefit a great success

September 12, 2012
Melissa Schneider - Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Taking place in the courtyard of The Mermaid Lounge, JT?Palooza rocked on throughout the Saturday, as hundreds of island residents and visitors paid tribute to the family of John Thomas Simpson, a local 17-year-old boy who was lost in a fatal car accident just weeks ago.

Organized by Ashley Galassi, with the help of JT's friends and family, the benefit was a huge success. Musicians hit the outdoor stage throughout the day, including Steve Farst, 10,000 Views (John Hyatt, Stet Howland and Tim Johnston), and Chris Casdia of the New Vinyls, while DJ Craig Stradler spun hits from the rooftop between sets.

Hundreds of fabulous prizes were raffled off, or won through the many silent auctions, and fantastic giveaways "rained" from the rooftop throughout the fund-raiser.

Article Photos

Friends, family and the island community gathered in The Mermaid courtyard Saturday for JT Palooza, a benefit held to help raise funds for the family of John Thomas Simpson (inset), who recently passed away during a fatal car accident. Above, JT’s friends and family, Grandma Betty Smiley, Jackie Simpson, Ashley Galassi, Thomas Christopher, Joshua Jacob, Rebecca Richardson and Xuxa Santiago. Photo by MELISSA SCHNEIDER.

BURN by Rocky Patel, "an evolution in lounges," was set up by the stage, offering benefit guests some of the finest cigars around.

Bartender Bud Williams kept the crowd cool with refreshing drinks of all sorts, and local island angels pitched in to help sell raffle tickets, 50/50s and more, including Lena Neroni, Rose Loudermilk and Sue Elliot.

A ferocious feast of delicious eats was offered throughout the day, including a succulent pig roast, hot dogs, homemade pasta salad and other tasty treats, and the crowd cheered on as Ashley rapped all of Sir Mix a Lot's "Baby Got Back" to help raise some extra funds for the cause.

"Thank you to everyone for coming out and helping us," said Jackie Simpson, JT's mother, with a tear in her eye. "Many blessings to everyone. Most importantly, thank you to Ashley for doing all of this ?it turned out wonderful. Thank you so, so much."

Ashley is sure to share her thanks to the crowd, as well.

"Thank you to everyone for coming out and helping raise money for a great cause and a great family," she said. "A very big thank you to the Van Selow family and their Mermaid Lounge staff for lending us this great space. Thank you to BURN?for coming out and donating, thank you to all who donated food for the pig roast, thank you to everyone who came out to support the cause, thank you to Steve Farst, 10,000 Views, Chris Casdia of the New Vinyls and DJ Craig Stradler. This was an amazing benefit and it couldn't have been done without all of you."



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