CEDAR PARK, Texas (KXAN) — Before Lakeline Mall was even open Sunday morning Santa arrived with his helpers. Waiting for them was a number of families with their Christmas lists and wishes in hand.
Geoffrey George’s family was among the group. The 4-year-old is autistic and has been talking about seeing Santa for weeks now.
“I was crying,” said Elizabeth George. “He was 3-years-old before he even started speaking to us and to see him a year later sitting on Santa‘s lap actually telling him what he wanted for Christmas, it’s huge. It’s something that you want them to be able to have… all the joys in life.”
Geoffrey and his younger brother got to read with Santa and just talk. For a few moments, Geoffrey was just a kid.
“Having these types of events where they hold a space for our kids are really important because we just don’t get to go if those things don’t exist,” explained his mom Elizabeth George. “In a regular situation there’s too many people, there’s too many distractions for them to be able to take that moment and actually enjoy it.”
The sensory-friendly photo session is called “Caring Santa” and it’s for families of children with special needs.
“Oh this is wonderful for me,” Santa said. “I love the children and when we can come in when there’s not so much distraction it’s wonderful for me and the children.”
About 30 families were able to make reservations. Over a two hour period, Santa greeted each of them, read to the kids and heard all about their wish lists.
“We tried to keep the atmosphere quieter. There’s not as long of lines for them to wait, and they have activities to do, some snacks just to keep them busy until it’s their turn,” explained Jana Griswold, Area Director of Marketing with the mall. “It’s just really heartwarming for all of us involved to be able to help these families in our own way.”
Nicole Chaney says it was a very special morning. Her oldest daughter has autism.
“For me and my husband, it’s really important to just see her being happy and just understanding that we got to do this together,” said Chaney. “As a parent with a child with special needs sometimes we are not always together, because its easier for one parent to be with the child with needs while the other parent is with the other children so it is really nice to have a group photo.”
Griswold says if you missed “Caring Santa” this weekend, then call their office. They will make special arrangements for families with special needs children.
The mall will also host a “Caring Bunny” session in the spring.