The Santa Cares event benefits children with special needs –

The Santa Cares event benefits children with special needs


Bringing a Christmas wish list to Santa Claus and taking a picture while sitting in the lap of the merry man is a rite of pbadage for American children that many families expect year after year.

But with many of Santa's appearances taking place in local shopping centers with consumers looking for holiday offers, loud noises, crowded spaces and generally hectic nature can make children with special needs feel uncomfortable

In response, the Pueblo Mall received its first Santa Cares event on Sunday, during which children with all spectrum of sensory, physical and developmental needs met Ol & # 39; Saint Nick in quiet time before they The shopping center opened.

"Christmas is magic and we want everyone to feel it" Kristi Alfonso, the mall's marketing director, said The People Chieftain

"Sometimes, if people have a disability, It is not so easy for them to participate in certain activities that other children are able to do, so we just wanted to organize a special moment.The shopping centers are a kind of busy place, especially at this time of year, so we are simply softening a little to provide that great experience for our customers. "

The event allowed Jestin Gallegos, 17 years old. to visit Santa and convey his desire for a soccer ball and a Playstation 4.

"He said he would think about it," Gallegos said after talking to Kris Kringle.

Gallegos' grandmother, Rosenda Samora, said her grandson still believes strongly in the magic of Santa Claus, so he wanted to take him to Santa Cares to escape the hustle and bustle of the mall.

"The big crowds really catch him, so when it comes to a quieter environment it's better because he's not so nervous or nervous," Samora said. "I think it's good." They should have more things like this for kids with special needs, … I'd like to see more. "

Not only children with special needs or disabilities benefited from the moving experience, as families like Jessi Stolzenberger also enjoyed a quieter environment for their photo shoot of Santa Claus. .

"Too big of a group is too much for us," Stolzenberger said. "I have a PTSD and I can not be in large groups of people, and it is very difficult to manage for [los niños].

" This was announced on Facebook and (Alfonso) was really amazing. She hired the children so I did not have to deal with the group, I did not have to be so scared to come, and (the children) got a more intimate moment with Santa. So we are super grateful that they have done it. It's amazing. "

It was not just the first Santa Cares event for Pueblo Mall, but also for John Weisgerber, the Santa of the mall, Weisgerber has brought joy to Pueblo kids at the mall every holiday season during the last 4 years.

"These are special children, and children are the world to me," he said. "I just love children, so I spend as much time with them as I can."

Although it was the the first time he participated in an event specifically aimed at children with special needs, the concept of throwing all stops to bring a smile to a child's face is nothing new to him.

Weisgerber has been baduming the role of Dad Noel for the past 35 years, he is the current president of Santas of Sterling, which organizes activities and makes charitable donations to children and families in northern Colorado.During his decades recreating the personality of Jolly F At Man, Weisgerber took the time to learn a handful of sign language phrases to better connect with children who have difficulty hearing or speaking.

"I use it maybe 4 or 5 times a year is all," he said, "but when you have children … their eyes just light up and get a big smile almost always."

Using their hands to communicate a variety of phrases: "How are you today?" "Merry Christmas", "What gift do you want from Santa Claus?" and "Have you been a good boy or girl?" – Weisgerber has been able to connect with many children who would never have imagined that Santa spoke sign language.

"I had one last year where a mother, daughter and aunt came, and the mother told me about her little girl," Do not pick her up, she will not let anyone pick her up ". I slid off the couch and sat on the floor, and the little girl stayed there and I talked to her for a couple of minutes.

"When she prepared to leave, I saw the little girl turn around and (talk to her). sign) language) to his mother, and I asked him: "Signature? & # 39; And the mother said & # 39; Yes & # 39;

"And we had a big long and big line and I indicated:" How are you today? "And" What gift do you want from Santa for Christmas? "And she simply Everyone in the line was crying because it means a lot to the children, and when people see it, they also react to it, so for me, it's just worth it. "

zhillstrom @ chieftain .com

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