Easygoing Easter Bunny event at Miller Hill Mall appeals to special needs kidsGoing to see the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus at the mall shouldn’t be a traumatic experience, but it can be, especially for children with special needs.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune
Going to see the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus at the mall shouldn’t be a traumatic experience, but it can be, especially for children with special needs.
“Sometimes, it seems like they’re doing fine, but then they’ll get upset,” Betty Bockovich said of her 9-year-old daughter, Chelsea, who has cerebral palsy, and 14-year-old son, Brandon, who is autistic. “They’re very sensitive to bright lights, noise and stuff like that.”
The jostle of holiday crowds also can trigger negative reactions, so Bockovich of Superior was delighted to learn that Miller Hill Mall was hosting a “Caring Bunny” event before the mall opened to the public Sunday morning.
“We’re really grateful,” Bockovich said.
Noerr Programs has designed Easter Bunny and Santa events across the nation specifically with families like the Bockoviches in mind.
“We take great care in making sure our photo setting is conducive to all abilities, to allow these families to participate in a heartwarming tradition that so many take for granted,” Judy Noerr, the namesake and CEO of Noerr Programs, said in a statement describing the company’s approach to planning the events.
Dawn Jones, a marketing assistant, said Simon Property Group, which operates Miller Hill Mall, explained that more of the special Santa and Easter Bunny events were scheduled this year after a smaller trial program met with initial success.
“We tried this at some of our other malls last year and had a good response,” she said. “It just seemed like a good community event.”
The Caring Bunny isn’t only for children with special needs to visit. Jones said many parents are drawn to the quieter tone of the event.
“It’s nice that they keep it low-key. It’s not as overwhelming,” said Lindsey Zifko of Washburn, who took her daughters, Wren and Marit, ages 6 and 2, respectively, to see the Easter Bunny on Sunday morning.
Wren eagerly climbed into the bunny’s lap.
“She really enjoyed it, but our 2-year-old still wasn’t ready,” Zifko said of Marit’s reaction.
It just goes to show that however gentle they may be, 6-foot-tall bunnies still can stir anxiety.