Santa’s House to run for the final time this holiday season

An annual holiday fundraiser in London is coming to an end this year.

The Santa’s House campaign will begin later this month for the tenth and final time.

The house — owned and operated by the Teresina Larizza Charities (TLC) Foundation — has made an impact on so many sick, terminally ill and underprivileged children over its time.

One of those is 11-year-old Olivia Rawson of Ilderton, Ont.

While battling cancer, she keeps fighting and dreaming of her future. She loves making elastic keychains, and called it “calming.”

“She said, ‘Mom if I make keychains, people can put them on my keys and remember and think about me, and pray,” said Amanda Rawson, Olivia’s mom.

Olivia has now made and sold over 2,500 toward her dream of going to college. Anyone looking to purchase them can contact Amanda at [email protected].

“I want to be an art teacher,” said Olivia.

Amanda Rawson (left) of Ilderton, Ont. sits with her daughter Olivia Rawson, 11. Olivia is battling a brain tumour. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)

Though optimistic, her prognosis of making it that far isn’t good, after a life changing diagnosis in 2021.

“Olivia was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at nine and then went through four rounds of chemo,” said Amanda. “That was successful, but then in June of 2022, she started getting headaches and discovered that she had had a brain tumor.”

Now Olivia and her mom cherish every breath and every moment together as if it could be their last.

“It’s precious,” said Amanda.

Through her illness, the family met Leo Larizza of TLC. He helps sick and terminally-ill children with family needs and wishes.

He gifted her an iPad, which she loves because it gives her entertainment at the hospital.

leo larizza london 1 6643518 1699913650677Leo Larizza, founder of the TLC Foundation charity, will close Santa’s House for good after a decade of raising money for sick and terminally-ill children. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)

“I like it because at the hospital, there is no working TV or anything,” said Olivia.

For a decade, Larizza has raised funds for children’s wishes at Santa’s House.

However, this will be the last year he’ll operate.

The past three years have been difficult after being kicked out of London Health Sciences Centre and having to move the house from Victoria Park, battling to get the house at Storybook Gardens, and finally setting up shop at 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, it’s just I think it caught up to me.”

Larizza said the stress has affected his physical and mental health.

Even though this will be the final year for Santa’s House, he still has plans to help sick and terminally-ill children through his foundation.

santa s house london 1 6643519 1699913689870Santa’s House at the Covent Garden Market in London, Ont. will run from Nov. 24, 2023 to Dec. 23, 2023 for the final year. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)“Thirty-five years ago, they got into my heart and they haven’t left,” said Larizza. “I just feel that that’s my purpose in life is to brighten and make their lives a little easier in a difficult time. We’re just all tired, but we will not stop fighting for those children. We will never get tired doing that.”

Back at the Rawson’s home, Olivia is working on more keychains and bead paintings to keep her busy.

She will have an MRI in December where they should know more about her future.

For now, it’s day by day.

“Her oncologist says they threw out the book with Olivia because she hasn’t followed any predictable routine,” said Amanda. “Each day is a gift, just keep praying, watching and hoping.”

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