NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--This holiday season, children with autism or other disabilities can enjoy a tradition that many families take for granted: visiting Santa Claus.
“Santa Cares,” is a partnership between Cherry Hill Programs and Autism Speaks. Together, they are presenting an unprecedented 741 events in 581 shopping destinations across the U.S. and Canada on November 24, December 1 and 8, 2019.
Holiday sights, sounds and crowds can overwhelm children with autism, who often have sensory sensitivities. At “Santa Cares” events, lights are dimmed, music is lowered, and the event begins early, before holiday shoppers arrive. Families can reserve a time to visit with Santa to avoid waiting in lines. Santa has been specially trained to interact with special needs children and will take cues from a parent or caregiver who knows the child’s abilities and preferences.
“Most of all, Santa remains flexible, standing behind his chair or kneeling beside a wheelchair to capture unforgettable moments and smiles on camera,” said Ruth Rosenquist, marketing and PR director for Cherry Hill Programs, the event’s organizers along with Autism Speaks. “We are grateful for our compassionate mall clients that open their doors early to provide the time-honored tradition of a visit with Santa in a more subdued setting.”
“Our goal is to create a more inclusive world for people with autism, and events like this make such a meaningful impact in helping families feel comfortable, understood and accepted,” said Valerie Paradiz, PhD., vice president of services and supports at Autism Speaks. “We’re so thankful to once again partner with Cherry Hill Programs to bring these autism-friendly events to the community.”
In addition, Cherry Hill Programs collects donations to support Autism Speaks’ mission, which includes funding research, advocating for the needs of people with autism, and providing free tool kits for everyday challenges throughout the life span. Since 2015, Santa Cares – and Bunny Cares events during Easter season – have collected more than $733,318.
One mother wrote of her experience at Santa Cares: “As a single parent of a child with autism, it is difficult to provide ordinary opportunities for my daughter. You helped create that opportunity. It was a special moment I will cherish. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing my little girl to experience the magic of Christmas.”
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. We now know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, and each person with autism can have unique strengths and challenges. A combination of genetic and environmental factors influence the development of autism, and autism often is accompanied by medical issues such as GI disorders, seizures and sleep disturbances. Autism affects an estimated 1 in 59 children.
About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the life span, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. We do this through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of people with autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions. To find resources, join an event or make a donation, go to www.AutismSpeaks.org.
About Cherry Hill Programs
Cherry Hill Programs represents over 96 years of combined experience and thought leadership from the most respected pioneer in the experiential photo industry. They bring the magic with authentic Santas for the young and young-at-heart. Cherry Hill Programs operates in hundreds of premier retail and entertainment venues across the U.S. and Canada during the Christmas and Easter season, utilizing innovative technology and authentic characters. Their mission is: Delivering a magical experience. Every time. Visit www.WhereIsSanta.com to find Santa near you.