MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The Coastal Grand Mall is working to make sure everyone has a chance to meet Santa this year. The mall held a sensory-friendly holiday event on Sunday for families with special needs. The mall was closed to the public for two hours, so families with special needs children and children on the autism spectrum could enjoy a visit with Santa and shopping in a calm environment. Organizers say this is the first event of its kind in the region.
Coastal Grand Mall teamed up with Autism Speaks, Champion Autism Network, Cherry Hill Programs and The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce to organize the sensory friendly experience. During the event sensory triggers, like music and lights, were muted. Mall traffic was also reduced; only families with special needs children were allowed in the mall for the two hours during the event.
Many families who attended the event say they don’t often go to the mall because of the crowds and loud noises, but this event let them get the experience of Christmas shopping without the chaos.
Coastal Grand Mall’s Marketing Director, Tori Dean, explains she would like to continue to organize events like this.
“It’s not just Santa, we expanded it to make it shopping too and this is the first in the region. So we’re excited to start here and make it bigger and better next year. Maybe we’ll potentially be able to do this as a back to school shopping event too,” she said.
“Most every family has told me they don’t go to the mall and to have the opportunity to see Santa and be in a mall with their children. We’ve all had the opportunity to go to the mall at Christmas time. And it really means a lot to be able to go out and if their children do have a meltdown, all of us here understand, so they won’t be met with criticism or judgment,” Champion Autism Network Director Becky Large said.
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