The Harris County Medical Society Alliance started hosting a holiday party for vision-impaired children more than 30 years ago. That idea has blossomed into a huge event for physically and mentally disabled children. About 400 kids are expected this year. Event Co-Chair Cynthia Foley says most Christmas trees are covered with glittery, sparkly ornaments that kids aren't allowed to touch. But this party is all about the tactile experience.
"The tree is to stimulate their senses, all touch, smell and hear. They can touch and smell there's handmade orange balls with cloves, bubble-blowing Santas, feather ornaments. So they can just touch away. Nothing is breakable and it's all specially designed for them."
All of the ornaments and decorations are kid-friendly, Foley says the kids are allowed to smell and touch everything. And of course, all the kids line up for one thing.
"And then they see Santa Claus, they really like that. And they get a teddy bear and a candy cane and they have juice and cookies."
"Who says ho ho ho? Santa! Are you going to see Santa? Yeah!"
Seeing Santa Claus is the highlight of the party, and all the kids, from the youngest to the oldest know exactly what they want to tell Santa.
"I'm going to see Santa Claus. Jack Sparrow. I'd like a candy cane. Toys. I told him I want a PSP. I want a Tinkerbell. I want Legos. I want a lot of things."
Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.