Valley Mall will host two “Silent Santa” events for families of children with special needs on Sunday and on Dec. 4.

This is the fourth year that the mall in Union Gap has offered the private photo sessions, which allow children with special needs to be welcomed into a photo environment designed to support their needs.

The Silent Santa events begin at 9 a.m. and continue until 11 a.m. when the mall opens. Families are encouraged to RSVP prior to the event by calling Valley Mall Guest Services at 509-469-9308.

“This is to offer a private, quiet photo environment for children who have autism or Down’s syndrome or other special needs, or even a child in a wheelchair — anyone who might require a little extra time with Santa,” said Bryan Kozu, marketing manager for Valley Mall.

Families schedule appointments in 10-minute increments. That’s free; parents may purchase photo packages ranging from $13 to $43, but they’re not obligated to buy photos, Kozu said.

“We’re still taking reservations for the (Sunday) event as well as the Dec. 4 event,” he added. “We are totally willing to add another event on the 11th if we need to.”

About 30 families participated last year, and it’s been full for the last couple years, Kozu said.

“It’s just amazing to see the response we’ve gotten from it,” he said.

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