Monday, December 18, 2017
News Roundup

Sensitive Santa event grows

TAMPA — Ethan Russell doesn't get many chances to meet Santa Claus.

As a 4-year-old with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and sensory issues, visiting Santa at the mall — with the long lines and loud noises — is out of the question.

So, on Saturday, Ethan got straight to business.

"Mom, can you get the magazine?" he asked as he walked toward the man in the red suit.

Norrine Russell, of Northdale, handed Ethan a tattered toy catalog that had come in the mail weeks ago. Inside, his name was scrawled next to pictures of fire trucks and ambulances.

"I want that," he told Santa as a photographer snapped their photo.

It's a moment made possible thanks to the Lawyer's Autism Awareness Foundation.

In its second year, the Sensitive Santa event for children with autism spectrum disorders has doubled in size, said Luis E. Viera, the organization's co-founder. Held at the Chester H. Ferguson Law Center in Tampa, more than 150 children attended.

"It's obviously a sign that we need more events like this for the kids," Viera said. The event may expand to two Saturdays next year to fill the demand, he said.

Often appearing in early childhood, symptoms and severity of autism disorders vary, and all affect a child's ability to communicate and interact, according to the Mayo Clinic.

To make the event sensory-friendly, long lines and loud music are eliminated. Families sign up for a time slot to meet Santa one-on-one in a private room. A photographer takes as many photos as needed to capture a smile.

And Santa, played by Hillsborough County Circuit Court judges Rex Barbas and Nick Nazaretian, know to take extra time to help the children feel at ease.

Kay Jefferson already has photos of three of her children with Santa. She's only missing one: her 10-year-old autistic son Jalen.

By the time he reaches Santa he's either crying, looking the other way or not willing to get close at all, she said.

But, on Saturday, a smile spread across Jalen's face when Santa handed him a bell.

Jalen turned to look at the camera and Kay Jefferson's wish came true: a Christmas card worthy shot.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Atlanta airport power outage cancels 1,000 flights; more Delta cancellations Monday

Atlanta airport power outage cancels 1,000 flights; more Delta cancellations Monday

ATLANTA — A sudden power outage brought the world’s busiest airport to a standstill Sunday, grounding more than 1,000 flights in Atlanta just days before the start of the Christmas travel rush. Authorities announced that electricity would be restored...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Bucs-Falcons: Things to watch in Monday’s 8:30 p.m. game

Bucs-Falcons: Things to watch in Monday’s 8:30 p.m. game

TAMPA — The Bucs and Falcons have each won three straight games on Monday nights as they face each other on a national platform tonight at Raymond James Stadium.How can Tampa Bay continue its streak and stop Atlanta’s? It won’t be easy, but given the...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Bitcoin futures begin trading on CME, price little changed

NEW YORK — Another security based on the price of bitcoin, the digital currency that has soared in value and volatility this year, began trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on Sunday. The CME Group, which owns the exchange, opened up bitcoin f...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Woman shot and killed in apparent drive-by shooting in Clearwater

CLEARWATER — A woman was shot to death Sunday night in an apparent drive-by shooting, according to Clearwater police.Authorities said they received an initial call at 8:19 p.m. originating from 800 Belleair Road. The shooting is believed to have occu...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Bucs fans call for Jon Gruden — why was he fired to begin with?

Bucs fans call for Jon Gruden — why was he fired to begin with?

TAMPA — The beers and the "love ya, bros" were flowing Saturday night at the Hooters in Tampa. Jon Gruden, who will be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor at halftime of tonight’s home game against the Falcons, worked the room, greeting family, frie...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Fennelly: Jon Gruden was one hard-working bro

Fennelly: Jon Gruden was one hard-working bro

TAMPA — It’s ridiculous that it took this long to give Jon Gruden a night all his own, given the nights he gave Bucs fans. But it will happen this evening at Raymond James Stadium, a salute to the thermonuclear source of that Super Bowl season, that ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Massachusetts rolls 100-foot-long joint; McCain likely to miss tax bill vote; Cherokee Nation’s fear of losing heritage drives opioid lawsuit; more in U.S. news

Massachusetts rolls 100-foot-long joint; McCain likely to miss tax bill vote; Cherokee Nation’s fear of losing heritage drives opioid lawsuit; more in U.S. news

Massachusetts Rolling a fat one — 100 feet longMarijuana aficionados have rolled a 100-foot-long joint. The effort was led by Boston-based cannabis club and advocacy group Beantown Greentown during an exhibition of pro-marijuana vendors and supporter...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Trump says he isn’t considering firing Mueller

Trump says he isn’t considering firing Mueller

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Sunday that he is not considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller even as his administration was again forced to grapple with the growing Russia inquiry that has shadowed the White House for much of his ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Friendly competition

Friendly competition

 
Updated: 8 hours ago

More than 300 cruise passengers fall ill with stomach virus

PORT EVERGLADES — More than 300 passengers on a cruise ship that docked at Port Everglades fell ill with a stomach virus. The Naples Daily News reported that the Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited’s ship Independence docked Saturday in Florida reported ...
Updated: 8 hours ago