CARING SANTA: Making Tradition Easier For Kids

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For many kids, the holidays aren't complete without sitting on Santa's lap. But, the hustle and bustle can be overwhelming for certain kids. One mom decided to do something to make the tradition a little less stressful.

Sitting on Santa's lap brought a smile to 5 year-old Andrea's face. But, getting there wasn't easy. As Mom Brenda Hummel moves her daughter from her wheel chair to Santa’s lap, she says, "I'm going to scoop you up, are you going to smile?"

Hummel says, "Andrea was diagnosed with infantile spasms when she was just 5 months old. It's Epilepsy." Hummel says the diagnosis makes it difficult for her daughter to enjoy what's typically a time honored and simple tradition.

She says, "She'd stay in her wheel chair because of time allotment and crowds. It would be hard to maneuver and other kids with sensory issues, the crowd would be too much for them."

This year, Hummel worked with Jordan Creek Town Center to offer a Caring Santa program. Santa came in two hours before the mall opened and they turned down the music for kids with special needs. Marketing Manager Angela Jones says, "It's important we recognize not everybody can deal with the hustle and bustle of the everyday mall, and I think it's very important we give those children extra time."

Organizers say they’re just trying out the program this year at Jordan Creek Town Center, but they hope to expand it next year. Hummel says, “I'm really hoping it takes off and other malls get on board, and also hoping to take it to other venues maybe so we can offer different times and also hoping for a caring Easter Bunny."

The program seems to be a success for Andrea. Santa sang to her, read a book and snuggled for about 30 minutes. Hummel says, "He's amazing with the kids."

She says the experience was great for Andrea. "She gets the chance, just like every other kid.” She goes on to say, “To get out of the chair and talk to Santa. He's talking to her. She can't understand what he's saying, she doesn't always look at him, but she's getting it."

About fifty kids visited during Santa's early hours from 8 to 10 Tuesday morning.