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'All we are seeing is smiles': Sick children treated to shopping spree in London, Ont.

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It was a day for families to forget about the hardships they’ve endured.

The TLC Foundation treated more than 40 children and their siblings to a shopping spree at Toys R Us in southwest London, Ont.

“This is a great day for oncology families to have a day to go shopping, and be a kid,” said Melissa Patrick, whose daughter Megan was excited to head to the Barbie section.

Leo Larizza, the founder of the TLC Foundation, used the funds from Santa’s House at Covent Garden Market to invite them to spend around $150 each. The day was expected to cost over $20,000

Kieran Frietas took his mom directly to the aisle with monster trucks and remote control cars.

“Kieran was diagnosed in 2019, and he had three relapses, but he's been two years cancer free,” said Elizabeth Frietas, Kieran’s mother. “This is such a big, generous gift and it’s wonderful to do at this time of year.”

Hayden Gillespie suffers from a rare genetic disease called CACNA1A. It affects the calcium channels of the brain. She is non-verbal and in a wheelchair requiring help with all aspects of life.

She’s formed a special bond with Larizza.

Leo Larizza, founder of the TLC Foundation, held hands with Hayden Wintzes, a non-verbal child with CACNA1A, a rare genetic disease, on Dec. 10, 2023. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)

“We saw Leo at the Santa’s Castle and he invited us to come here,” said Heather Gillespie. “It’s pretty special that he wants her here, they have a little bond. They hold hands, clap, and it’s amazing that Leo has included her and her siblings in this.”

Their cart was filled with soft toys that Hayden could enjoy.

The most popular items were Barbies, bicycles, and Lego.

“I got a Lego Harry Potter set because I’m collecting all the sets,” said Liliana Bechard, 15, a cancer survivor who was surprised by her mom with the spree

Liliana Bechard, 15, a cancer survivor, picked out Lego sets with her brother Auric, 10, during a shopping spree provided by the TLC Foundation in London, Ont. on Dec. 10, 2023. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)

“I’m really appreciative because when I was younger I was diagnosed with a brain tumor when I was four. Then I [went through] chemo and had radiation. I'm grateful that I'm alive.”

It was a day of appreciation, and smiles from those in attendance. Today the children in remission, as well as those sick and terminal, were able to forget about their problems for a few hours.

“So many people were so thankful,” said Larizza.

“They've been having a hard time and today was a special day for them,” one family said “I haven't seen my child with a smile on their face for a long time, and today, that's all we're seeing is smiles. That's important to me.”

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