Visiting Santa is what most children wish for when the holidays come around, but crowds can make the experience difficult for some kids with special needs.

A sensory-friendly holiday experience at SouthPark Mall, this event allows children with special needs to enjoy a nice time with Santa.

Matt Whiting took his son, Benny, to meet Santa on Sunday.

This is the first year Whiting became aware of the event, and he heard about it through social media.

“There’s a Facebook group for the special needs board that posts special events like this, so that’s where I saw it originally,” said Whiting.

In the past, Whiting had taken Benny to get pictures taken with Santa, but Sunday’s event was a different experience for the entire family.

“It’s great, especially because it’s before the mall opens officially, so it’s a lot quieter, and a lot less chaotic,” said Whiting. “We kind of prepped him, and he knew ahead of time what he was going to do.”

Connie McElyea, administrative assistant of SouthPark Mall, is glad families were able to enjoy the event again.

“Wonderful to realize that we are getting back to the norm slowly but surely, and we will get there,” said McElyea.

Organizers made sure the environment was ideal for the families, providing activities for them to enjoy as well.

“The lights were down, and we did it prior to the mall opening, so it gave a more intimate experience for the kids,” said McElyea.

Seeing children enjoy a few minutes with St. Nick was a priceless moment for many.

“It’s gratitude to see the smiles on the kids’ face,” said McElyea. “It makes Christmas worthwhile.”

SouthPark Mall held the event in partnership with Autism Speaks and Cherry Hill Programs, and they plan to do it again next year.