Williamson County, Tenn. (Tennessean) — Sid Heffington could see the need.
Last year the Thompson's Station resident dressed up as Santa Claus for Spring Meadows Church of Christ. Some kids with special needs and sensory sensitivities weren't enjoying meeting the man in the red suit and black boots with a salt and pepper beard.
In fact, some kids ran away inside the open room.
"All year, that scene has been ruminating in my mind," he said with a soft voice. "Some kids are apprehensive about new places and new faces when they have special needs. All year I have been trying to think of something."
This year Heffington and his wife decided they would try a different approach. Rather than host a Santa Claus meeting in an open space, he offered to go to individual homes to meet with kids who can't do public events easily.
"My main goal is I want to do something to benefit the kids and make the kids who wouldn’t feel comfortable able to have the Santa experience with as little disruption as possible," he said.
Heffington's wife, Tami, started sliding her finger up her phone.
She read off the emails she had gotten from parents and grandparents with special-needs children in their lives.
"We had one family write to us who had a child (who had) a stroke at four months old," Tami Heffington said. "Now, the child has other issues, and has only seen Santa one time. That is going to change this year."
Sid Heffington has been Santa before. He's sat at his church's celebration, letting kids tell him what they want for Christmas. When he lived in Atlanta, he arrived at another church celebration via helicopter, landing in the parking lot for the kids to see.
The Heffingtons let the Spring Hill community know on social media they were available to do Santa visits at individual houses.
"This year is going to be different," Tami Heffington said. "I think we might have a teary-eyed Santa this year."
Danielle Oliver had become weary of trying to take her kids to meet Santa at the mall.
It simply didn't work because both of her children have severe anxiety.
"My son does OK in crowds if he doesn’t have to interact with anyone," Oliver said. "But taking him to see Santa or the Easter Bunny? We just don’t even do it."
But when she saw the Heffingtons' offer on Facebook, she thought she would try a Santa visit just one more time.
"They will be able to talk to him and not feel weird," Oliver said. "My kids have the countdown calendar on the wall. What these people are doing for these kids like mine is amazing. It warms my heart and brings tears to my eyes to know they will get to experience Santa."
For children with autism, special needs or anxiety, Sensory Santa can drop by their homes in Williamson County after parents make an appointment.
Times are available now until Dec. 22 from 4 to 7 p.m.
Those interested can email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a visit.