kensington uggs Mall Santa hosts special needs children
Lehigh Valley Mall opens doors early for ‘Caring Santa’ event.
But for some children with special needs, the malls are literally overstimulating, and this has prevented them from going there to meet Santa.
On Sunday, however, they could at the Lehigh Valley Mall, which opened its doors an hour early for what it billed as its Caring Santa event.
“Just for her to have a normal experience like every other kid is important to us,” Karrie Marko of Mountain Top, Luzerne County, said of her 7 year old daughter, Sydney.
Sydney, who developed an undiagnosed condition at the age 3, can have seizures when stressed. To accommodate such children, the mall initiated Caring Santa, making a point to reduce sensory triggers. For example, the lights were dimmed, the music was turned off, and the escalators were halted.
After seeing Santa so many times on TV,
Sydney and her twin brother were clearly thrilled to finally meet him in person.
Santa seemed to be enjoying the experience just as much. He described it as “a little more emotional” than his typical day at the mall. “These children love life,” he said.
Francine Stanely of New Tripoli said past attempts to introduce her daughter, Katie, to Santa had been unsuccessful. After standing in long lines, her daughter, who is 9 and has a disability, would in the end balk at her long awaited chance sit on Santa’s lap.
Katie showed no such reluctance on Sunday. She sat with Santa and told him about the iPod case, UGG boots and Barbies on her wish list.
“I have pictures of him with Santa,” Stanely said, gesturing to her son, pausing to let a wave of emotion pass, “but not with her, so it means a lot.”
Coral Riechard, 8, of Wescosville, met the Easter bunny then, and she was back this time to meet Santa. Apparently the two hit it off,
because Coral was all smiles and laughter afterward.