Santa Cares Day at Grand Traverse Mall Gives Special Needs Kids Time with Santa

This time of year, malls are packed with families on their way to see Santa; and while the visit can be a cherished holiday tradition. It can also be a little stressful.

Long lines, waiting forever, it’s overwhelming for anybody, especially kids with sensory issues.

That’s why the Grand Traverse Mall teamed up with Autism Speaks for the third year to offer Santa Cares Day. It’s an event that offers extra time and a quieter, less stressful environment for kids with special needs.

Don Pelland, general manager of the Grand Traverse Mall, says “This is an opportunity to meet with Santa without having to wait in line, and because there isn’t a line, Santa has the time to spend more one on one time with those children.”

For mother Deidra Charnes, it means her daughter who has autism can be part of the Christmas fun. “We don’t have a lot of family activities that we get to do as a whole group, that are low key and relaxing for my husband and I as well, that we can actually enjoy with our kids,” says Charnes.

A Santa visit that will be a Christmas memory her family won’t soon forget.

“Being able to bring all three of them today, so that they could meet Santa together,” says Charnes. “We came as a whole family, and that’s huge for us.”