'Caring Santa': Southdale Center Caters to Children with Special Needs

December 03, 2017 06:08 PM

Edina's Southdale Center held it's annual Caring Santa experience Sunday for families whose children have special needs.

The mall takes several steps to make sure the environment is comforting for children who are sensitive to certain sensory channels. More than two dozen families took the opportunity to meet Santa Clause and take photos.


Amy Siegel, Southdale Center's marketing director, said the families are scheduled ahead of time so there's no waiting and no crowds.

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"We really feel like every family should have an opportunity to see Santa," Siegel said.

The lights are also dimmed, while the escalators and music are turned off completely.

"I can't tell you how many people have said, 'Our child has never had a chance to see Santa, and this is the perfect opportunity,'" Siegel said.

All three of Nicole Schulte's kids have special needs, so she couldn't wait to introduce them to St. Nick in the right environment.

"It's really nice to be able come down here and not have it be overstimulating and not have it be a bad experience," Schulte said.

Terri Dalberg, whose son has autism, said the special accommodations made the difference, and she hopes other event organizers consider doing the same.

"It's nice that it's quiet here and there's no lines, otherwise we wouldn't do it," Dalberg said with a laugh.


Tyler Berg

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