Children with special needs meet Santa during annual event at Burlington Mall

BURLINGTON, MASS. (WHDH) - Dozens of children got the chance to take a picture with St. Nick Sunday at the annual Caring Santa event.

Simon Malls across the state hosted the special visit for children with special needs to make sure nobody is left out. The malls have been hosting the event in partnership with Autism Speaks for more than a decade.

The program director says it’s an event catered to children with different types of special needs, so that every child may enjoy the holiday tradition of visiting with Santa in a welcoming environment.

“For many families, this is the only opportunity they have to have their children’s picture with Santa because we provide really kind of a no-wait-in-line atmosphere,” Sheila Hennessy, director of marketing and business development at the Burlington Mall, said. “Just an atmosphere that allows them to have their child really spend that time with Santa.”

Thirty families enjoyed a tailored visit with Santa without distractions or sensory triggers.

Parents say it helps their kids feel more comfortable around Santa, helping them enjoy Christmas even more.

“It’s a special event for the kids,” Lakis Koulouris, a parent, said. “They really like coming here and meeting Santa Claus in a stress-free environment.”

The children also got a chance to make crafts and spend time with service dogs.

One attendee, Joseph Joulouris, said, “My most favorite part of Christmas is meeting Santa.”

The Burlington Mall will host another Caring Santa event next weekend.

Families can reserve a time for their special visit here.

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