Children with special needs are invited to a special, private visit on Sunday with the South Hills Village Santa Claus.
The Caring Santa event will take place 9 a.m.—before the mall opens to the public—to provide a subdued environment to visit the Santa Photo Experience.
Along with an early opening, many other steps are taken to reduce sensory triggers, creating a more comforting environment for the children’s magical visit with Santa. This environment is likely to include (specific elements or aesthetics may vary):
- 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.
This will be the second year for the Caring Santa program at South Hills Village.
“Last year, we saw families who received a Santa photo with their child for the very first time,” said Sheryl Young, CEO of AbilityPath.org. “We are fortunate to have terrific alliances with Simon and their photo operators who have worked with us to lessen potential triggers, like having the event occur during private mall hours and other slight adjustments that help provide a calmer sensory-friendly environment for all children to enjoy.”
“We are thrilled to be the venue for this incredible event,” said Jennifer Carroll, director of marketing at South Hills Village. “The Caring Santa program brings a lot of joy to children with special needs and to see that happen at our mall is truly an honor.”
Appointments are not necessary, but participants are encouraged to RSVP for the Caring Santa event by going to www.AbilityPath.org.