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All Olivia wants for Christmas is to give back

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A chronically-ill child stuck in the hospital during the Christmas season wants one thing for the holidays — money for her favourite charities.

Olivia Burgess, 12, was rushed to Boston Children's Hospital in October due to complications from lupus.

She has systemic onset juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, which causes her chronic pain, and systemic lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease that can affect joints, internal organs and the skin.

However, her health challenges have not broken her spirit. Last summer, she decided she wanted to start a support group for other children suffering health problems.

After The Royal Gazette wrote about her efforts, many people came forward and offered her family financial donations. Now, her family is saying, “No, we want something else instead”.

“All she wants for Christmas is to give back, and say thank you to those who have offered support,” said her mother, Traci Burgess. “We are financially stable at the moment, and Olivia's support group is not yet up and running. Instead, Olivia has picked four of her favourite charities and is asking people to give to those in her name.”

Phenomenal People's Dream Girls Club for young women is one of the charities on the list. Olivia spent the month of June at Boston Children's Hospital but was able to enjoy the rest of the summer. One of the highlights was going to an empowerment workshop in Texas with the Dream Girls Club.

Despite that, the Bermuda SPCA would likely top her list of favourite charities, her mother said.

“She loves animals and wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up,” said Mrs Burgess.

Boston Children's Hospital has a pet therapy programme, and Olivia loves those days when the dog visits her.

Mrs Burgess said they were taking one day at a time.

“She is not terminally ill,” said Mrs Burgess. “We have just received word that Olivia can leave the ICU today and go into a general ward. We might be released from the hospital altogether before Christmas. We won't be coming home right away though, as she has several courses of treatment to go through. We expect to be here through the month of December.”

Treatment consists of oral medications and IV medications to suppress her immune system.

Friends and family have given Olivia's 17-year-old brother Sean, a few gifts to make her Christmas a little brighter. They've been handed to her in a 4ft stocking.

“Instead of focusing on the what ifs, it is better to stay focused on the positive aspects of life and things we know,” Mrs Burgess said.

“We have control over our thoughts. We can decide if we are going to dwell on scary stuff or dwell on the positive stuff and healing. We are going to beat this. We are going to figure out how to heal her.”

Olivia asks that her friends and family make a donation to the following organisations under the name of “Liv's Love”:

Hamilton Parish Youth Soccer Programme — saburgess@northrock.bm

The Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation — www.kaf.bm or info@kaf.bm

The Dream Girls club c/o Phenomenal People — margaretrose07@gmail.com

Bermuda SPCA — www.spca.bm or info@spca.bm

For more information about Olivia's support group for children contact Mrs Burgess: 599-3210 or bdafamilies@gmail.com.

Olivia Burgess with an honour roll certificate from Elliot Primary in 2012.
Olivia Burgess, 12, with brother Sean, 17, and the stocking he is attempting to fill for her in time for Christmas.
Olivia Burgess at Boston Children's Hospital with a therapy dog.

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Published December 10, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated December 10, 2014 at 12:41 am)

All Olivia wants for Christmas is to give back

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