A couple from Kirby Muxloe, Leicester have put a huge smile on children and young people’s faces by designing a Father Christmas grotto specifically for those living with a disability.
Callum, 44 and Nikki McKeefery, 27, realised the barriers some youngsters with physical requirements face visiting Santa after raising their five-year-old disabled son Hudson.
The business couples have been busy elves over the past six months putting the accessible grotto together which has cost them thousands of pounds in Leicester city centre.
By the end of today, Thursday December 23, when the attraction closes its doors so Santa can prepare for his big night, around a thousand kids would have had the chance of meeting the man himself thanks to the McKeefery’s.
The couple are behind Reviews.co, an online service which builds review scores and employs around 100 staff living in Leicester.
Their grotto is built on the site of a former Dorothy Perkins unit in Leicester’s Gallowtree Gate which the couple bought when the Arcadia Group collapsed.
Callum told Business Live: “The idea is to give children with special needs and their families that bit of normality.
“It’s a completely safe space, so there will be nobody there judging the kids if they’re playing up or taking their time settling in.
“It’s not just grottos at Christmas, it’s anywhere – if you have a child who needs extra support, it’s difficult to do anything as a family.
“What often goes unrecognised is the fact that children with special needs can take longer to get used to new surroundings, so normal grottos don’t really work for them.
“Having spent a long-time queuing, the kids are sometimes dashed in and out within minutes.
“We give Santa the chance to spend longer with the children, which means they can warm up slowly and the parents can enjoy the process.
“One of our main aims is to get each visitor a nice photo with Santa – I know just how much that will mean to the parents.
“Sometimes, perhaps for the first time, they’ll be able to get a festive picture of their child printed and send it to family.
“They’ll be able to look back on that photo and have such amazing memories.”
It’s not just the children who benefit from the festive attraction, as Callum explained it brings joy to the whole families.
“It’s a treat for their siblings too. They could be having a tough time themselves, or they might be needing to help out more at home, they deserve to have just half an hour of normality,” he added.
Hudson was diagnosed with the rare condition Ferredoxin Reductase at the age of three, he can’t walk, talk or sit.
His parents noticed their son had additional needs when he was at a young age.
Callum said: “It was as if someone had punched me in the stomach. It took the wind right out from underneath us.
“It was incredibly lonely and all of a sudden, it felt as if we were being treated differently. To some, it was as if we were invisible – people didn’t know what to say to us anymore.
“Hudson is just brilliant, he’s the happiest of little boys and absolutely loves life. He is the spark behind the grotto.”
He was given the honour to officially open his parent’s grotto on December 1 which gives each child around 15 minutes with Santa.
Callum said: “Seeing their faces light up, that’s what makes it all worth it.”
The presents from Santa’s grotto are bought by Callum, Nikki and the Leicestershire-based Menphys charity.
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