‘Sensitive Santa’ offers calm, sensory-friendly visit for local kids

Sensitive Santa was at Chuck Mathena Center in Princeton for special needs children.

The sensory-friendly event provided a low-key, less hectic chance to visit with Santa, versus going to the mall or various venues where there is much noise, music and overwhelming things.

“Just the sights and sounds together and so we wanted to have a situation that wasn’t overwhelming to the kids that still want to come out and see Santa and see the trees and the decorations,” said child law services paralegal, victims advocate, program director Lori Kinney.

Paden Workman has seen Santa many times before, but the Sensitive Santa experience is different.

“It’s kind of new for me because I have autism,” said the 10-year-old Workman. “It makes me feel great because Santa — I believe in him.”

According to Kinney, there are many families that feel isolated on an ongoing basis but especially during the holidays.

“When everyone’s wanting to go and shop and go out and be together and have parties and things like that but they’re isolated with their special needs children who can’t really function well in those environments,” the paralegal, victims advocate, program director said. “So it’s as important for the family as it is for the children.”

Sensitive Santa says the best thing we can do is do something for others… it’s very uplifting and Kinney and company are special for bringing a little bit of joy to these folk’s lives.

“That’s why I do it; I’ve never charged a dime to do my Santa thing… the joy comes from giving back,” he said. “And it’s a special time of the year — if each of us can just lift one person up, it’s exponential and you never know when a kind word or gesture can make a difference in someone’s life.”

The event means a lot to Kinney, who has two special needs children of her own.

“If I had something like this I would have been overwhelmed I would have been so excited that they understood maybe what I was living,” the paralegal, victims advocate, program director said. “I’m overwhelmed with the parents that I met in the last couple of days and heard their thank yous. Thank you so much for having this, thank you for supporting us and we’re so happy to be bringing that to the community.”



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