University Place providing Quiet Santa 02

Tre Galbraith, 5, of Provo, readies a rocket to launch with the help of his mother, Megan, while Santa Claus, watches during a playtime session with Santa on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017 at University Place in Orem. There are no expectations during time with Quiet Santa. Kids can do whatever they want, including play with a variety of provided toys. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

After an overwhelming response last year to the first-ever Quiet Santa at University Place, the shopping center has upped its game this year with more time slots and a larger area for children to meet and interact with Santa Claus.

The Quiet Santa experience is designed specifically for children with sensory sensitivities. One in 54 Utah children are diagnosed with autism, and Quiet Santa makes it possible for them to spend one-on-one time with Santa without being overwhelmed by the typical crowds and noise, a University Place statement said.

Due to overwhelming interest, registration for the free event is required. Registration opens at noon Thursday and can be completed online at https://www.universityplaceorem.com/events/quiet-santa-3/. Quiet Santa will be available during the following dates and times:

Monday, Nov. 26 – Friday, Nov. 30 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 3 – Friday Dec. 7 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.to 7 p.m.

Quiet Santa will be set up in the east side of the shopping center near RC Willey, and will be thoughtfully decorated to account for sensory sensitivities, by event sponsor Tai Pan Trading.

Additionally, to ensure that the unique needs of attendees are considered, Quiet Santa has undergone specialized training by representatives at the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism, who previously partnered with University Place to host the Autism Sports Camp earlier this year.

“We want all of the families in our community to be able to join us for the fun holiday activities we have planned this season,” said Jeff Woodbury, senior vice president of development and acquisitions at Woodbury Corp. in a press release. “With Quiet Santa, families who might have been reluctant to expose their sensitive children to the hustle and bustle of the holidays can participate in a fun holiday tradition in a safe space.”

Laurie Bowen, director of the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism said, “Our entire community is improved when organizations like University Place lead out on developing and establishing substantial inclusive focused events for children and families in our area. Santa is a symbol of childhood and generosity, we are thankful kids with exceptional needs get to have this experience in a way that works best for them.”

For additional information on Quiet Santa, or for a complete list of holiday activities happening at University Place, visit https://www.universityplaceorem.com/events/.

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801) 344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire

A 32-year veteran of covering news in Utah County, Genelle covers Provo, Orem, Faith/Religion, including the LDS Church and general assignments.

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