‘Calming Santa’ Offers Safe Space for Children with Disabilities

The MacArthur Center in Norfolk opened it’s doors early Sunday morning for Santa Claus and some very important guests. A trip to the mall to see Santa Claus is a tradition for many families. But for some, it’s not that easy.

“We tend not to go too many placed with all four kids,” said Kim Schweikarth, who has four kids, two with ADHD. She says family outings aren’t always easy for them. So having the chance to visit “Calming Santa” on Sunday at the MacArthur Center was special.

“This was really nice that they hosted it before mall traffic, without the loud noise. This was great,” said Schweikarth.

The mall partnered with EMG Consulting to create a safe space for kids and their families.

“There’s a much calmer environment, it’s a slower pace. There’s a lot more tolerance for families in this environment that might have to deal with some challenging behavior or might need a little bit more space to go through and see Santa,” said Elizabeth Gilmore, EMG Owner and Managing Director.

With no crowds and no music — families said the calming environment worked.

Minerva Garza came with family for her grandson’s first visit with Santa. She said, “We just want him to get in touch with his community and feel part of it.”

Garza and her daughter sang to her grandson to help keep him calm. While that may seem unexpected on any other day in the mall, the other families nearby understood.

“People understand what we go through, knowing that it’s not always easy. So this here, it was amazing,” said Schweikarth.

“It’s a once in a year event, and in many cases, once in a lifetime for the children,” said Garza.

For all things holiday related around Hampton Roads, check out our Holiday Guide.