BECKLEY, WV (WVNS)– For kids with special needs, the noise and crowds that come when you meet Santa at the mall can sometimes be too much to handle
So the Youth Museum of Southern West Virginia offers a special alternative, the tenth annual sensory Santa event.
For many local families, the event provides a way to get into the Christmas spirit without a trip to the North Pole.
“Having an option like this for Dan close to home is phenomenal,” said Gloria Justice, the mother of a child with sensory issues. Normally we travel to Charleston, Huntington, Lewisburg, bigger cities to do any type of sensory event that friendly for him and not just for him but all kids that might have a little bit of sensory issues.
For Lola Rizer, the event coordinator, the project is something she is passionate about. Her daughter has Down Syndrome, so she took it upon herself to find a way for her daughter to participate in the tradition without the trauma a trip to the mall can bring, and offer the experience to others who never thought it would be an option.
“The one thing that a lot of families who have children with disabilities is they kind of write off the opportunity to be able to sit with Santa,” said Rizer. “They look at the mall situation and they’re like, ‘There’s no way my kid will ever be able to do that so they just don’t. So this is a way for us to offer that opportunity.”
Rizer said it is crucial to not force or push the kids to sit on Santa’s lap, but rather have Saint Nick meet them at their level, where the only noise comes from reading off their Christmas list.
“So when the child comes in, they might need some time to kind of adjust to the area, get themselves comfortable and relaxed enough that when they are ready to see Santa, Santa is ready for them.”
Besides sitting with Santa, kids could make their own miniature sleighs, decorate paper Christmas Trees and draw their own Christmas buttons.
As part of the event, students from New River Community and Technical College’s social services program dressed up as elves to help kids with their arts and crafts.