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Kids with special needs experience Caring Santa

MISHAWAKA, Ind. – Sunday morning, children with special needs and their families were able to get in the holiday spirit and meet Santa without the lines and the crowds.

The annual event at the University Park Mall called Caring Santa strives to make sure everyone can have that special moment with Santa.

The sensory-friendly event is in partnership with Autism Speaks.

It allows children with special needs to visit and take a picture with Santa without the over stimulation of a mall environment.

The free experience provides a safe place by reducing sensory triggers and distractions typical in a mall environment.

All mall music is turned off, lights are dimmed, and kids get to skip the line by waiting their turn with a number system.

“It’s great because usually when we come to the regular Santa, there are long lines, and she gets fussy because she’s blind, she can’t see. So we decided we wanted to try the caring Santa because it’s fast and it’s easy and he’s caring,” said parent Paloma Garza.

“It’s very special the kids look forward to it every year. We wear Christmas outfits and we get prepared for it, and it’s just something we always look forward to.” Parent Jennifer Noffsinger said as she explained the special event.

“We really appreciate university park mall taking the time and doing this for us, thinking about kids with special needs. Taking their time to do this and get up early, and allow us to be a part of this,” she said.

Event organizers say the steps to reduce distractions create an enjoyable experience for families.

The University Park Mall will be collecting donations for Autism Speaks throughout the holiday season.

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