For many children with autism and sensory processing disorders, visiting Santa is a nightmare. Ditto for extremely shy children. And the boredom of long lines and an overwhelming sense of hustle and bustle can make it difficult for some infants, children and young adults, too.
Some families don’t even bother with shopping centres or stores during the holiday season, therefore some children have never had the opportunity to meet the special man in the red suit, says Lindsay Edwards, Huntsville Place Mall Manager. That’s why Huntsville Place Mall will host their Sensitive Santa for the fifth consecutive year this December.
“People are sometimes surprised to hear that this is offered in Muskoka. The families are very appreciative of it,” says Edwards. “It is a very welcomed and highly anticipated annual event. Sometimes there are a few tears shed — often by me but also by parents — and they are very blessed that it is available.”
The sensory-friendly Santa experience gives all families the opportunity to take that beloved photo with Santa without worrying about crowding and noise. “Huntsville Place Mall will be bringing a very special new Santa and Mrs. Claus to Muskoka’s only indoor shopping center this year who understand what a truly special event this is,” says Edwards. “This special event is something that is near and dear to my heart and it’s truly not the holidays without it.”
Activities during this two-day event include activity stations provided by My Special Tool Box and Community Living Huntsville, snacks provided by Spicoli’s Express, and giveaways from Christmas Tyme, Dunlop Automotive and Scentsy. Sessions with Sensitive Santa are booked in 10-minute increments but visitors are welcome to stay longer to enjoy the activity stations and snacks.
Each family will receive one complimentary 5×7 picture from Lorrie Lamb Photography — thanks to the generosity of Boyd Cleaning Service and Huntsville Place Mall Pharmacy — as their holiday reminder that the season is for everyone. Some choose to include other siblings or the full family in this photo.
The new Sensitive Santa visits Huntsville Place Mall for two days this year. “We’ve had an overwhelming response the last couple of years,” says Edwards. “We decided to make it more accessible for parents with a weekday and a Saturday, and also by doing it first thing in the morning until early afternoon. We’ve had a great response for reservations already.”
People of all ages with Autism or any special need, along with their families, are welcome to reserve a special time to meet with Sensitive Santa and Princesses Belle and Elsa on Friday, December 1 and Saturday, December 2 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Contact Mall Manager Lindsay Edwards at 705-789-3889 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Arrangements can also be made via Community Living Huntsville.
Edwards thanks all of the sponsors — Huntsville Place Mall Pharmacy, Boyd Cleaning Services, Granny Lyn’s Kitchen, Spicoli’s Express, Scentsy, Dunlop Automotive, Party with a Princess Muskoka, Christmas Tyme, 105.5 MooseFM, Kawartha Dairy, Community Living Huntsville, My Special Toolbox, Huntsville Doppler, CTV Barrie, Muskoka 411, 99.5 Moose FM, Muskoka Seniors Magazine, and Metroland Media — for their support. “We couldn’t do this without them.”
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