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Letter: Family disappointed with 'Santa Cares' set-up at Coquitlam mall

The Callaghan family of Belcarra hopes the Coquitlam Centre administration will reconsider the "Santa Cares" arrangement in future years.

The Editor,

I felt compelled to write to express my frustration after my children’s visit with Santa this year in Coquitlam Centre mall. 

For the past 12 years, a program has operated under the banner of “Santa Cares." 

This enabled children with disability to visit Santa in a calmed environment, usually after mall hours when the lights were dimmed and the shoppers had gone home. 

Santa spent quality time with each child, who was then gifted a printed, matted photo and a treat at no charge.

Last year, "Santa Cares” was located in a storefront for the first time, due to COVID-19, as opposed to a "workshop" location in the central public area of the mall.

An appointment was necessary and the free photo was digital.

This year, I called the administration to book my daughter Olive’s Santa visit and was informed that the "Santa Cares" program had been altered, with the central mall location again being replaced with the "pop-up" store front, an appointment being required, along with a new $35/child charge for the visit, which included the QR access to the mandatory digital photo.

The special consideration for children with disability has effectively been replaced in a blatantly commercial move to make Santa "accessible to all" for a fee of $35! I witnessed this process effectively exclude families who came to the mall without an appointment hoping to just visit with Santa to express their Christmas wishes.

I understand that other Lower Mainland malls continue to offer open visits with Santa and, in light of that, I see this as a very negative move on the part of Coquitlam Centre mall — one which detracts from the community festive spirit that we have enjoyed in the Tri-Cities in recent years. My hope is that a raised public awareness of this situation might cause administration to reconsider this arrangement in future years.

As things stand, my daughters and I are truly disappointed with a diminished family tradition as well as the experience for others this year. — Emma, Olive and Anya Callaghan, Belcarra