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Caring Santa at Cielo Vista caters to kids with special needs

By: Gina Benitez
EL PASO, Texas -- Visiting Santa is a holiday tradition enjoyed by children all over.

But for those with special needs, it isn't always doable.

Cielo Vista Mall set aside Sunday before the mall opened, to make that a reality.

"It was nice to see all the kids. I mean, their faces lit up to see these wonderful pictures these guys are taking. It's amazing," said Robert Yocom, executive director of Epic Health Services.

For the little ones, spending time with Santa is one of the most anticipated days of the holiday season.

But for some, it isn't as easy.

"Most of the time we can't really be in the big crowds especially with him. He's in a wheelchair and has his machines," said Blanca Lucero, a parent.

Meet Caring Santa: He caters specifically to kids with special needs.

"When the crowds are full and busy they get really overwhelmed. So being able to come out a little bit early just made it really nice for them. They could take their time, get their picture with Santa like they wanted to, got some snacks with them and the families got to meet each other which is really cool," Yocom said.

Before Cielo Vista even opened, the kids were able to take photos with Ol' Saint Nick.

"This is really nice for them, something for them to come and see Santa Clause which they don't really get. So it's nice," Lucero said.

Other extras are provided to create a more comfortable experience for the children.

"While they were waiting for their picture, we had coloring books, snacks and the kids got to meet other kids with special needs and family members got to run their experiences by each other," Yocom said.

Around 75-80 kids came out this year, a turnout that surpassed last year.

"They need to be part of the community. A lot of times, they get isolated in the home because it's hard to get them out and stuff and what better time of year to do it then right now with all the holiday spirit. I mean, it was a really awesome sight," Yocom said.

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