WITH Christmas activities at Warrington Disability Partnership always one of the highlights of their fundraising and community engagement calendar, the recent Santa’s grotto at walton Hall & gardens has been hailed a huge success.
After the cancelation of last year’s activities due to COVID-19 restrictions, they were delighted when the management team at Walton Gardens invited them back to run a Santa’s Grotto and Santa Dash. As the new Luminate Light Show had already booked use of the Heritage Yard, they were offered use of the Indoor Riding School, a huge area to fill, and fill it, they did.
Chief Executive Dave Thompson, who was on regular duty at the grotto as one of Santa’s helpers with wife Pam as “Mrs. Clause” said: “Utilising two of our marquees, we built a Winter Wonderland Trail with North Pole backdrops, blackout roofing, picket fencing, forests of Christmas Trees, large inflatable and thousands of lights. Santa’s Grotto was housed in a huge log cabin and outside we offered our Teddy Tombola, Yule Log decorating, Santa’s Colouring competition, Christmas Raffle and outside offered a Reindeer Trail.
“Visitors were greeted by not just Santa, but also Mrs Clause, who together, handed out some amazing presents, and to capture the magic moments were our friends from F11 Photography.
“With amazingly positive feedback from the first weekend, the online bookings soon rocketed, proving more popular than ever. What was really nice, was seeing so many disabled children, parents and grandparents. Our Autism hours proved very popular, and the feedback we received from parents was humbling.
“There are several magical moments we will take away from this year’s Grotto, including the comment from 40ish-year-old father of two who had recently been given weeks to live. He thanked us for providing wheelchair access, as ours was the only Grotto he could find that was accessible and he loved seeing his young children in awe of Santa.
“On Sunday 12th December we also held our Santa Dash, supported by Birchwood Shopping Centre and Warrington Worldwide, over 60 runners and walkers filled the route around Walton Gardens in a sea of red. Friend of WDP, and WIRED Amputee member, Jill Keast Doran, provided inspiration to everyone as she completed a circuit on her hands and bottom. Jill said afterwards, losing both her legs hasn’t stopped her from wanting to participate in events. She finished to applause from nearly 100 people.
“During 11 incredible days over 2,500 children visited Santa, and including their parents, grandparents and families, we entertained over 10,000 visitors. It took an amazing team effort, foresight and commitment from our team. Huge thank you to everyone involved,” added Dave.