I remember standing in a line at Christmas, waiting to receive what would be my only present that year. “Boy -8” said the tag on the gift I placed under the tree, as I anxiously awaited Christmas Day. When I opened the box to find a wildlife puzzle, I was bitterly disappointed and I thought to myself that somehow, someday, I would make gift giving and receiving a more pleasurable and personal joy than the one I had just experienced.
My Mother always taught me that giving to those less fortunate was the right thing to do. Even though we had little ourselves, there were others who had even less. Twenty-five years ago I started to make good on a promise to ensure that children would never feel left out, especially at Christmas. It began with $100.00 and 50 toys, but each child received a gift that they were wishing for. The kids made a Santa list – I got a copy and started shopping! Deliveries were made on Christmas Eve, even at Children’s Hospital where children needed to stay over the holidays. This, to me, is what Christmas is all about – giving hope and help to the most vulnerable in our community.
Last year over 1200 wishes were granted to the delight of hundreds of kids and families. Now we have 80 volunteers who assist by shopping with the children’s lists in hand. My Mother, Teresina , would be so proud! She passed away suddenly at Christmas and while she left us to grieve her passing, her spirit remains alive through the Teresina Larizza Charities Foundation. Our Foundation has helped thousands of children over the years, not only at Christmas time but also at times when their families have needed the help. We have assisted children with severe disabilities and those who are terminally ill. We consider the wishes of all children and families who need our help, whether it is for dream trips or specialized equipment.
With generous donations from our community and the support of many fine organizations, we hope to continue my Mother’s dream of supporting the most vulnerable members of our city- because every child deserves happiness!