A special Christmas Grotto for children living with disabilities and adults living with anxiety is to be based in Derry this festive season.
Enchanted Events NI has been successfully running grottos in shopping centres in Belfast for the last eight years.
Three years ago, owner Angela Lamont realised that many children with disabilities weren’t attending the grottos or visiting Santa and his helpers. After doing some research, she found there were a number of reasons why this was the case, including waiting times and noise.
She spoke with John Jones, the manager of the Kennedy Centre in Belfast, who agreed to let her run ‘Silent Sundays’ from 9am to 1pm, when the centre was shut. It was a mammoth success, with families travelling from Derry, Donegal, Coleraine and Ballymoney.
This year Angela wanted to set up a Santa’s Grotto for children with disabilities in Derry and set about finding a venue. She found that Ebrington Square was the perfect spot and Santa and his helpers will be in attendance from November 22, right up until Christmas Eve.
Santa’s Grotto for children with disabilities and their families will run from 12 to 5.30pm. In the morning, from 9 to 12, it will be open to local groups or schools at a reduced price. There will also be a special session in the evening time, from 5.30 to 8pm for parents who live with anxiety or for children who perhaps might be scared of Santa.
Angela has been running the evening event in response to requests from parents who live with anxiety. All of the grottos will only be open to groups, schools and families who have a child or children with a disability and their siblings. A similar event, not run by Enchanted Events NI, takes place in Dublin each year and is also a sell-out.
Angela says entry to Santa’s Grotto is £9 per child and £5 per sibling. Parents go free and the child will get the ‘biggest size of photo in Northern Ireland’ as well as a ‘quality gift’. Angela outlined how, for her, the grottos aren’t about the money and she makes very little profit from them, but said they are ‘worth far more than that’.
“It’s not what it is about. It’s about creating special memories. For many children and families, it’s the first time they’ve been able to go and see Santa and I feel so lucky to be able to do this. For me, it’s the true meaning of Christmas.”
Angela is gauging interest and need for the grottos in a bid to determine if she will need to incorporate a booking system. Find out more at Enchanted Events NI on Facebook.