Rockford makes the holidays more inclusive for kids with special needs

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Santa Claus made a special visit to the stateline, and the big guy sat down with local kids and families with special needs.

Cherryvale Mall, 7200 Harrison Ave, teamed up with Autism Speaks for the return of “Santa Cares.” The mall opened early, so there would not be Christmas shopping traffic during the sensory-friendly event. Lights and music were turned down to make sure everyone could comfortably get a picture with Santa.

Organizers said that the event is a prime example of making the holidays more inclusive.

“It gives them the opportunity to feel like they’re a little bit more normal,” said Jill Ellingson, Administrative Assistant for the Cherryvale Mall. “To be able to say ‘oh, we can’t visit Santa because my son or daughter can’t stand in line,’ but this way, they have that opportunity to visit Santa.”

Fifteen families signed up for a slot to meet Santa Sunday morning.

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