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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – ults and children with special needs got a jolly greeting from Old St. Nick this Sunday at a meet and greet at the Avenues Mall.
“The Caring Santa Program” was created for kids with sensory sensitivities or other challenges, where being in a quiet and comfortable environment is necessary.
Families gathered at the event to take pictures.
Beth Toenies appreciated the event because previous times she tried to take family photos with Santa were overwhelming.
“You have three or four minutes with Santa. Nobody wants to look at the camera. And then you mix it with some special needs, especially autism, and it is almost impossible. It is always filled with a lot of anxiety,” she said.
For Toenies, this event makes her and her family feel “special and seen because someone is taking the extra time to help.”
Her son Isaac is 5 years old. He has an undiagnosed neuromuscular genetic condition. On top of that, he has cerebral palsy, a feeding tube and is autistic.
“We don’t know what the timeframe around his life is or the prognosis. The silver lining with that is we really try to live each day as if it is the most meaningful or joyful that we will be given,” Toenies said.
Different families were able to sign up for a private season to sit down in the big seat with Santa Claus.
“It definitely means a lot that someone put the thought into doing this,” Toenies said. “It is very rare to get good photos let alone something with the holidays or that is festive.”