Sensory Santa coming to town

ALABASTER – The Angel Warriors Foundation is partnering with the Autism Society of Alabama to host the 2017 Sensory Santa event on Saturday, Dec. 9 from 2-4 p.m. at Restore – First United Methodist Church of Alabaster.

According to AWF Vice President Erika Zoebelein, Sensory Santa is open to all members of the special needs community and will give them the opportunity to meet and take pictures with Santa Claus and participate in a variety of holiday-oriented activities. While waiting to take pictures with Santa, Zoebelein said visitors can sip hot chocolate, decorate cookies and make Christmas-themed crafts.

“It’s just a nice way to do things that typical kids can do. It’s acceptance into the community,” Zoebelein said. “The whole family can come out, do a family event and feel welcome in the community.”

Zoebelein said Sensory Santa offered many people with special needs an accommodating and judgment-free way to participate in a popular Christmas tradition. She said no music will be played at Sensory Santa and rooms will be set up for anyone who is feeling overwhelmed to take a break.

“The biggest thing is that there’s no judgment,” Zoebelein said. “As a special need parent, we want to do things that other kids are doing. If a child needs to lay down or do something different, we’re very open to their needs.”

“The holidays are about bringing people together, and we’re allowing families to come out, be together and participate in a tradition that most people take for granted,” Zoebelein added.

The first AWF Sensory Santa was held in 2016 and Zoebelein said it gave people with special needs a more conveniently located holiday event.

“A lot of parents are looking for an opportunity for their kids to see Santa,” Zoebelein said. “There are a lot of Sensory Santa events out there, but (AWF President) Jamia Alexander-Williams wanted to have one here in Alabaster.”

Zoebelein thanked Restore – First United Methodist Church of Alabaster and the Autism Society of Alabama for their help in organizing the event and said she is looking forward to celebrating with the special needs community.

“We’re excited that we’re doing it and we’re looking forward to everyone coming out,” Zoebelein said.