The Rainbow Club has ensured to continue their annual Santa visits with a winter wonderland experience that has been specially designed for children with autism.
The Rainbow Club Cork Centre for Autism holds the specifically designed Santa visits each year and the event is an important aspect of the club's services for families and children with autism.
With Covid-19 cancelling a majority of the club's events, volunteers and parents came together to ensure that the tradition could continue this year.
“Originally when we started it was really because a lot of our families can’t do the Santa experience,” said Karen O’Mahony, co-founder of The Rainbow Club.
“We really wanted to add it as part of the club, so that families had something to look forward to, but also something to do as a family.”
The special sensory-designed experience is something which children and families from The Rainbow Club look forward to each year.
“Everyone has had a really bad year and the kids would know about Santa and this is where they would be expecting to go to see Santa so it would have been another thing that they would have been told that they can’t do or another thing that would have been taken away from them, and we really didn’t want to do that,” said Ms O’Mahony.
The event includes everything from snow, bubbles, a Princess carriage and a socially-distanced Santa visit and it is twice as big as last year’s event.
Volunteers and families involved in the Rainbow Club worked on the Santa experience for five days to ensure that the event was ready in time for Christmas.
In order to abide with Covid-19 guidelines, families are allocated slots in which they can enter the winter wonderland and items and areas are sanitized on a regular basis.
"It’s a lot of extra work but it’s worth it to see their faces," said Ms O'Mahony.
For many families, the event is an important opportunity to come together and make Christmas memories.
“For a lot of parents, it’s the only time that the family are together that they can get the child with autism to engage with the family and even getting a family picture, so that was absolutely very important.
“Rainbow Club really wanted to finish off the year in a really positive way. It’s been such a hard year for everybody and especially for our children, so we really wanted to make sure that they had this experience,” added Ms O’ Mahony.