"So with this event we're able to have a special appointment for the families that require it and they can have that special memory with Santa". "So it's very important to us here at Rushmore Mall".
"In an environment like this, where there's not very many people and it's not very loud, he can come in and see Santa and sit on Santa's lap and Santa can talk to him and he can have a more normalized experience", she says.
The mall opened several hours early to avoid the crowds and parents were asked to register in advance to avoid long lines.
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"When there is a lot more people, they get a lot more nervous".
Photos with Santa are a Christmas tradition for so many families, but for children on the autism spectrum, the experience can be too much to bear - unless, you connect with a Caring Santa program.
"It makes us feel like a regular, normal family", said Angie Flannery, whose son has special needs.
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"Part of the problem with going out to big events like this is the distraction, the overwhelmed feeling that he gets", said Vanessa Avila who brought her four-year-old son Nathan to see Santa. Staff turned off the music. "He's the one who is diagnosed with autism.", Kelley Ogletree said.
That's where the event "Santa Cares" comes in. "It's about the children".
"He doesn't like crowds and he needs a little bit calmer", said Flannery. This is the life that they live every day. That tradition of taking a picture with Santa is sometimes easier said than done. "Because that's what Christmas is all about...is giving".
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