Meeting Santa in a public setting can be overwhelming for a child with special needs. The lights, music, crowds and stranger anxiety in an unknown place can be overwhelming. That’s why the North Brandon Family YMCA makes sure to bring holiday cheer to the Lopez Exceptional Student Center, which serves students with a host of learning, language, neurological, developmental and behavioral disorders.
For the last six years, North Brandon Y staff, board and volunteers host a sensory-friendly event where more than 60 students get to meet Santa on their own terms in a familiar environment. Thanks to the generosity of Y donors, each child received a Christmas gift from Santa and his Elf. Students also enjoyed holiday arts and crafts before the Y provided a hot lunch to the entire staff at Lopez ESC to thank them for their hard work and dedication.
“Since many of our students reside in groups homes, these presents from the YMCA may have been the only gifts they received for the holiday season,” testifies Lopez ESC Site Administrator Joe Hilbush. “Your Santa Claus, elf and all the other helpers made the experience a memorable one. Lastly, you guys really made our staff feel special with the tasty Greek food. It was nice for them to get a treat as well. Thank you again to the YMCA for your continued support during the holiday season. We truly appreciate it.”
Major thanks to our donors, staff and volunteers who serve as holiday heroes year after year! The Tampa Y values diversity and inclusion and is committed to empowering all community members – regardless of ability – to be healthy, confident, connected and secure.
Pictured above: Every Christmas, the North Brandon Y brings holiday cheer to special needs children in Seffner.