POSTED: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 12:00pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 12:04pm
Baton Rouge, La — Cortana Mall’s Santa Claus visited with nearly 25 families of children with special needs on Sunday, November 18, during the mall’s first-annual Sensory Santa event. Families Helping Families of Greater Baton Rouge, a non-profit resource center for individuals with disabilities and their families, partnered with Cortana Mall for this first-of-its-kind event in the Baton Rouge area.
Many of the children served by Families Helping Families struggle with sensory issues, leaving them easily overwhelmed in environments filled with light, sound, and other stimuli. Traditional mall Santa excursions are out of the question, as lines and holiday hubbub make it impossible for these children to cope.
On Sunday, Cortana Mall opened early and turned the lights and music down, inviting children to visit with Santa Claus in a low sensory environment -- many for the first time in their lives. Because whole families were invited, siblings who have missed out on Santa photos got to take part, as well.
“Our family hasn’t been able to take a Santa picture since my son was three months old. We just aren’t able to wait in long lines with crowds and excitement all around. That was more than three years ago,” said Ashley Singleton, mother of Elaina, age 7; Landon, age 4; and Chloe, age 11 months. “The activity tables, the slower pace, and the patience of Santa and all the volunteers and staff working the event made it possible for Landon to adjust to his environment and get comfortable to take a great Santa photo with his sisters.”
The Singletons and families like them took advantage of the family-friendly environment to make holiday crafts and enjoy other activities at numerous tables manned by community organizations like Children’s Special Health Services, Healthy Smiles, Behavior Intervention Groups, and Neurotherapy. Thanks to the generosity of Sears at Cortana Mall, a TV and DVD player playing Christmas entertainment were available to waiting families as well.
“We know that we exist only to serve the community of Baton Rouge,” said mall General Manager Percy Singleton. “We’re happy to help this special group of families have the opportunity for a holiday tradition so loved by families everywhere. Thanks to Families Helping Families for bringing this wonderful event to Cortana Mall.”
For more information about Families Helping Families, visit www.FHFGBR.org .