Walt Whitman Shops will host a Caring Santa event Sunday at 9 a.m., a special program for children with special needs.
CaringSanta is designed to reduce sensory triggers, creating a calmer environment while the children visit Santa Claus. The change in setting often includes:
- Turning off in-mall music, stopping escalators located near the Santa set, dimming the lights, and shutting down fountains during the duration of the event.
- Eliminating queue lines through the use of a numbering system whereby guests approach the set when their number is called.
- Special activities and stories geared toward the needs of the child during the ‘wait’ period to help the child understand what activities will occur during the visit.
The program has been developed by Simon Property Group, Inc., working with AbilityPath.org, a national online resource hub and special needs community.
Simon’s Caring Santa program has grown in popularity in a few short years to become the most comprehensive offering of its type in the shopping center industry, the company said. Started in 2010 in just a handful of malls, today more than 100 Simon regional malls participate.
Sheryl Young, CEO of AbilityPath said, “That moment when a child gets to meet Santa is a magical one, and every child should get to have this magical moment. Unfortunately, many children with special needs have never had this opportunity. The hustle and bustle of the malls can be overwhelming to the children and their families. That is why we facilitate the Caring Santa Program with Simon Property Group; to create an environment that will lessen potential triggers for children with special needs.”
The main sponsor for the 2013 Simon Santa Photo Experience is Microsoft retail store, with ABC Family, Universal and Gymboree associate sponsors.
“We are thrilled to be the venue for this incredible event,” said Nancy Gilbert, director of mall marketing and business development for Walt Whitman Shops. “The Caring Santa program brings a lot of joy to children with special needs and to see that happen at our center is truly an honor.”
Participants are encouraged to RSVP for the Caring Santa event at Walt Whitman Shops by going to www.CaringSanta.com.