Visiting Santa at the mall for a quick chat and picture has become a tradition for many families in the march to Christmas. Many see it as part of the magic of the holiday experience, and others even plan their visits with the intention of continuing a legacy that their parents passed down to them.
For one child, however, greeting the jolly ol’ fellow was something he couldn’t partake in.
As a child, Kerry Magro’s autism affected his ability to meet with Santa.
“Growing up with autism, I had challenges in meeting Santa in public places because I dealt with a lot of sensory challenges, so giant malls were never really an option for me,” Magro explained.
The sensory overload of a mall setting was all just too much for Magro—the noise and pushing and shoving of a holiday crowd, the piped in music.
Even as an adult, he was saddened that he never could partake in the Christmas tradition. And he felt bad for kids like himself who dealt with sensory issues and were held back from doing something they might have loved.
Kerry Magro is currently a 29-year-old with an impressive resume of accomplishments. He’s a writer, motivational speaker, and community activist. Just from peeking at the list of what he’s accomplished one wouldn’t realize he’s autistic. However he never forgot the struggles he dealt with as a child.
So he decided to become Santa.
Magro tackled the problem head on, and began by launching a not-for-profit organization called KFM Making a Difference, which holds events specifically geared towards children with autism and other sensory issues. One event features a Santa greeting opportunity for children with similar sensory issues.
The Santa at these events is none other than Magro himself.
“Each child I meet has my complete attention for those few minutes,” Magro said.
“Each one of them has their own story, and every time I interact with them, I try to meet them where they are. Whether it’s me sitting on the ground playing with toys with them or keeping my distance if they want or need space, I’m here for them to have an amazing holiday event.”
According to Magro, in addition to keeping possible sensory issues to a minimum, the key to having a successful meeting is giving the kids enough time to feel comfortable. Additionally, everything at these meetings is specifically intended to be as simple as possible so as not to stress children.
Magro has held this event three years now, all of which he considered to be a success. He is excited to don the red suit once again for an upcoming event, which will take place in Jersey City on December 9th and 10th.
“No matter where our journey takes us next with these events during the holidays, I can only hope our community will continue to find ways to volunteer and give back to others,” Magro shared. “Volunteering and getting involved is one of the best ways you can support us not only during the holidays but all year round.”