DOZENS of volunteers from Warrington Disability Partnership and their friends successfully delivered what has to be, the most inclusive Santa’s Grotto anywhere, at Walton Hall & Gardens.
Around 1,800 children were greeted by Santa and Mrs Claus, helpful and happy Elves, at a grotto which was fully wheelchair accessible and offered two quiet and none rushed Autism Hours and also had a Santa who communicated with deaf children and their parents through British Sign Language and Makaton.
Money raised at the event will go towards the WDP charity and their work in the local community.
Dave Thompson MBE DL, Chief Executive and Head Elf at WDP’s Grotto said: “We were excited when Warrington Borough Council gave us the opportunity to run the Santa’s Grotto in the Heritage Yard at Walton Gardens. We knew it would be a busy six days over the three weekends in December, but with nearly 1,800 children visiting Santa, it far surpassed our plans, which sometimes resulted in queues as we didn’t want to compromise the quality time each child had with Santa”.
Dave added, “With little over one month to plan everything, we were pleased with the range of entertainment we were able to secure which included Signature Brass, Caldo Brass, Wa4 Brass Rock Choir, WIRED for Sound and Warrington BSL Signing Choir. Alongside children’s entertainers Elsa and WDP’s Ollie Owl visitors were treated to yule log decorating, pottery painting, letters to Santa, MEGA Christmas Raffle, as well as WDP’s famous Teddy Tomobla”.
Dave added: “The middle Sunday started well with over 80 Santa’s joining our first ever 3k Santa Dash which was supported by Birchwood Shopping Centre. The event brought colour and laughter as families and friends took to the paths around the park. Special guests included fundraising mini-heroes Ruben and Elena Evans and the legendary marathon runner Sarah Mathews, who has run 52 marathons in the past 52 weeks in aid of WDP despite living with a long-term debilitating illness”.
The WDP Santa’s Grotto was supported by Walton Hall Rangers, F11 Photography, Warrington Worldwide and The Duckpond. Special guests the Mayor of Warrington Councillor Wendy Johnson and Mayoress Beverley Hallam and Ruben and Elena helped to official open the Grotto.
Feedback has been extremely positive, so much so, that the team at WDP are already thinking about next year’s events.
Until then, Dave and his team will be busy planning next year’s Disability Awareness Day that will be held on Sunday 12th July, once again at Walton Gardens.