Leicester has a new grotto to be proud of this year as Santa takes up residency in a very special home on Gallowtree Gate,
The Inclusive Grotto is launching this year to give children with special needs an extra special visit to see Santa. With care taken to make the experience as inclusive and as memorable as possible, we caught up with the team behind it to find out more.
“Our 5 year old son Hudson, has a rare Mitochondrial Disease affecting his FDXR gene. One of the symptoms of this incredibly rare disease is sensory impairment. This means he can find loud environments and bright lights distressing which means he doesn’t usually enjoy typical kid friendly environments.”
Last year during the Covid lockdown they took Christmas in house and were fortunate enough to have Hudson’s uncle who offered to isolate, take a Covid test and visit Hudson at home as his own Santa’s visit.
“For the first time, seeing Santa was so enjoyable for all of us. Hudson had time to adjust to the big red suit and the white fluffy beard, without extra noise, without flashing lights, without chaos. Hudson watched Santa for a while and laughed as he sang Jingle Bells. After a few minutes he was happy to sit with Santa and we were able to get some really great photos. It sounds simple, but if you have a child like Hudson, you’ll understand the relief and joy we felt as parents.”
After that experience, they knew something needed to be done to allow all kids the joy of seeing Santa on their terms and in an inclusive environment. “We hope all families feel welcome, feel safe, and are full of joy during their visit.”
How is this Grotto different?
The inclusive grotto is accessible to everyone and allows you to book in an appointment so there won’t be any lines. Appointments have been spaced out so families don’t feel rushed. Lighting and music can be adjusted depending on what your child would feel most comfortable with. Santa will learn a little about each child before their appointment so he can avoid scaring or upsetting any children who might be sensitive to certain behaviours. There are some amazing volunteers, including the charity Menphys, who have donated toys for the children and these will include toys to fit each child’s needs. At other grottos children might receive a toy that they can’t use due to their ability so we want to make sure that doesn’t happen. The grotto is completely free so there won’t be any families that can’t afford to come. Families with children with additional needs spend a fortune on equipment, therapies, and treatments which means families struggle to afford family outings.
Here’s what you can expect:
A Christmas tree forest with forest animals
Plenty of time with Santa
Northern lights with falling snowflakes
A present from Santa
Accessible entry – ramp access
Customised lighting and sound for each child’s needs
Take all the photos your heart desires
The Grotto is welcoming children and adults of all ages and abilities. The goal was to create a Christmas space that is 100% inclusive.
To find out more, you can visit the website, Santasinclusiveworkshop.com where you can sign up and learn more.
The inclusive grotto is located on Gallowtree Gate in the former Dorothy Perkins unit.