Published November 13, 2023, 5:19 PM ET
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An annual holiday fundraiser in London is coming to an end this year.
The Santa’s House campaign will launch for its tenth and final year later this month.
The house – owned and operated by the Teresina Larizza Charities (TLC) Foundation – has helped so many sick, terminally ill and disadvantaged children over its time.
One of them is 11-year-old Olivia Rawson from Ilderton, Ontario.
As she battles cancer, she continues to fight and dream about her future. She loves making elastic keychains and calls it “calming.”
“She said, ‘Mom, if I make keychains, people can hang them on my keys and remember me and think about me and pray for me,'” said Amanda Rawson, Olivia’s mother.
Olivia has now made and sold over 2,500 copies to make her college dream come true. Anyone interested in purchasing can contact Amanda at [email protected].
“I want to be an art teacher,” Olivia said.
Although she is optimistic, her prognosis for making it this far is not good after a life-changing diagnosis in 2021.
“Olivia was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when she was nine years old and then went through four rounds of chemotherapy,” Amanda said. “That was successful, but then in June 2022 she started having headaches and discovered she had a brain tumor.”
Now Olivia and her mother cherish every breath they take together and every moment they share as if it could be their last.
“It’s precious,” Amanda said.
Through her illness, the family met TLC’s Leo Larizza. He helps sick and terminally ill children with family needs and wishes.
He gave her an iPad, which she loves because it keeps her entertained in the hospital.
“I like it because there’s no working TV or anything like that in the hospital,” Olivia said.
Larizza has been collecting donations for children’s wishes at Santa’s House for a decade.
However, this will be the last year he operates.
The last three years have been difficult after she was kicked out of the London Health Sciences Center and had to move house from Victoria Park, fought for the house in Storybook Gardens and finally settled in Covent Garden Market.
“It’s a lot of work,” says Larizza. “It takes a lot of people to help, and the politics and all the bureaucracy that we have to go through over the years, I think it just caught up with me.”
Larizza said the stress has affected his physical and mental health.
Even though this will be the last year for Santa’s House, he still has plans to use his foundation to help sick and terminally ill children.
“Thirty-five years ago they entered my heart and have not left it,” Larizza said. “I just feel like my purpose in life is to brighten up their lives and make them a little easier during a difficult time. We’re all just tired, but we won’t stop fighting for these children. We will never tire of it.”
Back at the Rawsons’ house, Olivia is working on more keychains and bead paintings to keep her busy.
In December she will undergo an MRI scan to find out more about her future.
Right now it’s day by day.
“Her oncologist said they threw out the book with Olivia because she didn’t follow a predictable routine,” Amanda said. “Every day is a gift, just keep praying, watching and hoping.”
Olivia Rawson, 11, of Ilderton, Ont. makes elastic keychains while battling brain tumor. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)