Sensitive Santa: Kingsway Mall’s Inclusive Christmas

For over five years, Kingsway Mall has set aside time and resources to ensure all children can visit Santa at their own pace. We spoke with Marketing Manager Bo Tarasenko about the special event.

Courtesy Kingsway Mall

What exactly is Sensitive Santa and who is it for? 

This is a free, by-appointment program that offers families an extended period of time to capture photos and visit with Santa in a quiet and sensory-friendly environment after mall hours. It is aimed at accommodating families with children who live with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), sensory processing disorders or who have mobility needs.

How is it different from typical Santa visits?

Lighting and commotion is low as almost all stores in the mall are closed, and mall music is turned off to provide a quiet, calm and supportive environment for families and children with sensory needs in mind. Families are provided with an extended period of time to meet Santa and take photos so they don’t feel rushed or overwhelmed. Appointments for bookings are also spaced out so families can arrive for their allotted time slot and avoid having to wait in line or deal with crowds. Appointments can be made by contacting Guest Services. We are committed to accommodating as many families as possible each year and have the flexibility to open more dates up if the available appointment times become full.

We hope to lead by example by inspiring the Edmonton community to consider how to be more inclusive in providing opportunities for people with unique needs to enjoy special childhood experiences that they may not otherwise have access to.

How does it fit within the larger CHROMA art installation?

This year’s ‘Santa-scape’ is part of one of Kingsway’s unique CHROMA YEG displays. CHROMA is a massive art installation that spans across the mall’s lower level and features original artwork by four local artists and creators. From painted murals to multi-dimensional displays, CHROMA is a place where everyone can come together this holiday season to experience and support public art, and build community. Families can visit Santa in the installation called ‘Knit Bricks,’ a holiday display created by Alberta artist Tyler Lemeryer made out of giant LEGO-like blocks.

How did Tyler Lemeryer get involved? How is his display more accessible? 

Tyler was chosen as a featured local artist of #CHROMAYEG at Kingsway this season, contributing a mural in our community space as well as the complete Santa installation. The Santa set this year is sensitive to sight and sound, with a familiar and awe-inspiring LEGO-like design that children immediately identify with.

Why is creating a more accessible Santa experience important to Kingsway Mall? 

It is indisputably the right thing to do. Every child deserves the same opportunity to visit Santa. As a major gathering place for the holidays, we want to bring the joy and wonder of the season to all of our guests. We are always listening to suggestions and looking for new ways to make Kingsway a more welcoming and inclusive community for every visitor.

When does it run?

The next event will be held on December 15th, beginning at 6pm. Santa is located on the main level of the mall by Starbucks and Homesense.

If you or anyone you know would like to book a Sensitive Santa appointment, please contact Kingsway Mall’s Guest Services desk at 780-477-5756.

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