"Caring Santa" available for photos

child on Santas lap

COLUMBIA CENTER MALL NEWS RELEASE -- Columbia Center announced that it will hold a Caring Santa™ event this holiday season on December 8th at 8:30 a.m. at the Santa Set in front of SEARS in the mall. Guests are asked to use the SEARS entrance because of its pre-opening time. Caring Santa is a special event dedicated to families that have children with special needs, providing a subdued environment to visit the Simon® Santa Photo Experience.

HP is the presenting sponsor for the 2013 Simon Santa Photo Experience and will demonstrate its next generation PCs, printers, and tablets in select malls this holiday season. The HP Holiday Workshops in select Simon malls will bring the thrill of gift giving back this holiday season with workshops powered by HP technology, ranging from the newest motion-sensing and touchscreen devices to stylish, sleek notebooks (and everything in between).

ABC Family, Universal and Gymboree are associate sponsors this year.

Caring Santa has been developed by Simon Property Group, Inc. (NYSE:SPG), the world’s leading retail real estate company and is guided by AbilityPath.org, a national online resource hub and special needs community.

Simon’s Caring Santa program has grown in popularity in a few short years to become the most comprehensive offering of its type in the shopping center industry. Started in 2010 in just a handful of malls, today over 100 Simon regional malls participate. Last holiday season, the program was featured on such national outlets as ‘Entertainment Tonight’ and www.parents.com, and well-known regional outlets such as The Orange County Register.

Many steps are taken to reduce sensory triggers, creating a more comforting environment for the children’s magical visit with Santa. This environment is likely to include (specific elements or aesthetics may vary):

·      Turning off in-mall music, stopping escalators located near the Santa set, dimming the lights, and shutting down fountains during the duration of the event.

·      Eliminating queue lines through the use of a numbering system whereby guests approach the set when their number is called.

·      Special activities and stories geared toward the needs of the child during the ‘wait’ period to help the child understand what activities will occur during the visit.

Sheryl Young, CEO of AbilityPath said, “That moment when a child gets to meet Santa is a magical one, and every child should get to have this magical moment. Unfortunately, many children with special needs have never had this opportunity. The hustle and bustle of the malls can be overwhelming to the children and their families. That is why we facilitate the Caring Santa Program with Simon Property Group; to create an environment that will lessen potential triggers for children with special needs.”

“We are thrilled to be the venue for this incredible event,” said Jordan Youngs at Columbia Center. “The Caring Santa program brings a lot of joy to children with special needs and to see that happen at our mall is truly an honor.”

Participants are encouraged to RSVP for the Caring Santa event at Columbia Center by going to www.CaringSanta.com.