BLOOMSBURG, COLUMBIA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Santa made a pit stop in Columbia County to hear some last-minute Christmas wishes from children.
He had a unique way of interacting with kids, particularly those with special needs.
It’s the time of year when kids come meet Santa to share their wish list, but for some children, this can be overwhelming. Hand in Hand Family Resource Center, a group dedicated to community inclusion with the disabled, came up a different way to experience Santa.
“The kids get to meet with Santa on their terms. So it’s completely child-led. So when the children come in, if they need to play for a little bit first, Santa will just kind of be there and they play,” Hand in Hand Family Resource founder/president Jennifer Billig said.
Sensory Santa allows children with special needs to interact in a more relaxed setting.
“We keep the lights low and the sounds low and there’s no Ho-Ho or anything else going on, just Santa,” Billig said.
There’s an extra Santa suit for them to touch and gifts specifically for each child. Parents say it’s a great way to meet the needs of all children.
“Sensory Santa would actually try and find something to work with you of trying to not make you scream or cry or runaway. They would try playing or not force themselves. They will work around it so they can actually talk to you,” parent Monica Fields said.
Toni-Ann Yates brought both of her boys to see Sensory Santa for the first time. She says this is an experience they’ll never forget.
“For us to be able to have an interaction with Santa Claus right before Christmas is very, very wonderful for James. He doesn’t have have that opportunity often,” Yates said.