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Special Santa event planned for those with special needs

Children and young adults can have their photo taken with Santa in a sensory-friendly environment.
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YOUNGSTOWN — The Autism Society of Mahoning Valley and Eastwood Mall are presenting the seventh annual Special Santa holiday photo event from 9 to 11 a.m. Sunday (Dec. 8) at the mall’s main concourse. 

Sponsored by the Cafaro Foundation, the event is designed for children and young adults with special needs who will have an opportunity to have their photo taken with Santa in a calmer, sensory-friendly environment.

“For one day, we will open up early, turn off the holiday lights and music and help kids meet Santa on their terms,” Alyson Moliterno, marketing director at Eastwood Mall Complex, said in a news release. “There will be no lines, no crowds, no music, but lots of fun,” she said.

“This modified environment is set up to support the sensory, physical and other developmental needs of kids with all abilities,” said Robin Suzelis, Autism Society of Mahoning Valley board president. 

Guests must register in advance, and a queue line will be in place so families won’t have to wait in line. Trained elves will be on hand to play games and provide other activities while the children wait to see Santa. 

The event is free, and professional photo packages will be available for purchase.

To preregister, click here.

For information, call 330-333-9609 or email