Special Needs Children Meet Santa at Unique Event

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For children with special needs, the mall during the holidays can be an overwhelming time.

"So with this event we're able to have a special appointment for the families that require it and they can have that special memory with Santa". "Because if we had to come and wait an hour, it would not go well, so it would just be something that we wouldn't do and miss out on", said Brett Flannery.

"I'm so grateful Santa Cares was brought to the community".

"This event allowed us to really control some of those things, so we dimmed the lights, we had this event before the mall opened to keep the crowds down", said marketing director of CherryVale Mall Melissa Cavanagh.

The calm, low-sensory atmosphere of the event caters to families with children who have special needs or autism.

"It makes us feel like a regular, normal family", said Angie Flannery, whose son has special needs.

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"His attitude and his reaction right now, the mood he's in is because of this, you know?" said Smith.

"It's epic! It's huge", said parent Pam Dore.

The mall works with Autism Speaks to put on the event.

"In an environment like this, where there's not very many people and it's not very loud, he can come in and see Santa and sit on Santa's lap and Santa can talk to him and he can have a more normalized experience", she says. "Or sometimes Luke will just absolutely shut down and it's like he's not there - it's just too much for him".

Some of those changes are shutting off the mall music, turning down the lights and having activities and snacks available for them to enjoy while they're waiting for their visit with Santa.

Cavanagh adds most people don't realize how important it is for families to get these type of opportunities.