Celebrating Palm Beach Philanthropists: Janet Levy

Janet Levy
Mark and Janet Levy. (Carrie Bradburn/CAPEHART)

Janet Levy is relishing the $1 million grant she and her husband Mark made several weeks ago to the University of Miami Health System.

When Levy communicates, it is obvious how her generosity with money gives her fulfillment. Her comments resonate with pride about how she believes her grant is contributing to the progress at both the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Miller School’s Department of Neurology.

“Sylvester is now the only cancer center in southern Florida which is NCI-designated,” Levy declares. “It enables Sylvester to do certain studies, clinical trials, work with new drugs, and more. I like knowing how I am helping out one of the top 13 cancer centers in the nation.”

Levy and her husband have always been charitable from the time they were residents in suburban New Haven, Connecticut.

“My father loved Florida a lot and he brought me a number of times,” she says. “In my late teens, I would visit with my girlfriends. When I was 20, I bought a condo in Dania Beach. My best friend and I would go shopping in Palm Beach, playing a game where we would pick out the houses that we wanted. In 2005, my Palm Beach dream house was up for sale, so my husband and I bought it.”

She permanently moved to Palm Beach 14 years ago. Her months are filled with special events, social occasions, fundraisers and planning meetings about campaigns for a variety of organizations. Janet Levy has become “the person to get,” behind a charitable effort. Her name pretty much guarantees that people will at least review an appeal, and often be motivated to participate. The event she feels has been the most successful when all of the elements clicked into place, involved Jay Leno when he was hosting The Tonight Show.

“I remember how in 2011 we got 480 people together at The Breakers for the University of Miami Health System,” she recalls.

Being known as a philanthropist means a lot of pressure. Many people make appeals and presentations to Janet and Mark for a multitude of causes.

“When I do something, I want to be personally involved in it. I just do not want to give money. I want to see what an organization does,” she adds.

Levy has suffered her share of setbacks: At a relatively young age, in 2002 she endured a debilitating stroke. Half of her cerebellum was removed. She was paralyzed for 36 hours. Her right side recovered. Her left side required many months. She was determined to once again walk five miles a day. Several doctors gave her discouraging advice. She credits stroke neurologist expert Dr. Ralph Sacco at New York’s Columbia Presbyterian for her rehab regimen to the point where she again has normal functions. Levy engaged physical, occupational, yoga and aqua therapists eight hours a day, six days a week.

“This was my job for a two-and-a-half-year period,” she says.

She discovered how Dr. Sacco had been appointed to the Miller School’s Department of Neurology. She learned how this unit has been accomplishing so much through research identifying ways to treat neurological disorders and strokes. She has helped to raise funds to continue this work, besides the latest gift made by her and her husband.

Navigating these health challenges appear to have increased her philanthropic drive to help others. Officially, Levy is second vice chairperson on the board of the Cancer Alliance of Help & Hope Inc. (cahh.org) in Palm Beach.

Clearly, she prefers to spend less time talking about herself, and more about her latest Cancer Alliance projects where she is actively engaged: March 2 is the annual Shop the Day Away auction and luncheon at The Breakers. March 30, is the Preserve at Ironhorse Charity Golf Tournament. And April 15 is the Dance the Night Away Gala at the Mar-a-Lago Club.

“My husband and I are fortunate to be in this town … we have made so many good friends,” Levy concludes.

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