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Photo of Santa Holding Child With Special Needs Sparks Controversy

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UPDATE: On Wednesday, December 23, the Santa, Glenn Burkett, responded on his Facebook page with the following message:

This photograph has gone viral on Facebook and on television. This child was brought to me stapped [sic] in a wheelchair and on a ventilator. I assumed they would bring the child in the chair to the set so I went to assist. They unhooked the child from the vent and placed him in my arms with a plastic tube in his throat. I was stunned but as carefully as I could I walked over in front of the camera. The child could not respond to the bells and sqeekers [sic] used to direct their attention for a photograph and I was given no instructions on how to handle this child.

“With him cradled in my arms to support his head I manipulated him for the best picture by positioning my body at an awkward angle toward the camera, got the picture and returned him to his family and caretakers as quickly as possible. They approved of the picture initially — retakes are sometimes requested, but not in this case. Then this family contacted a television station and said I refused to sit with this child on my lap to take a picture! No one requested anything and I delivered the best picture I could of this child for Christmas!”

The previous story:

A family in San Antonio, Texas, says a Santa Claus refused to take a photo with their child on his lap.

Megan Self told KENS 5 that on Friday at Bass Pro Shops, she waited in line for a free Christmas picture for her 13-month-old son Caleb, who has a rare genetic brain and muscle disorder called mitochondrial encephalomyopathy. When she got to the front and unhooked Caleb from his medical equipment, she says Santa quickly got up, took a photo and rushed them off. Bass Pro Shops issued a formal apology the next day.

A spokesperson from the store told KENS 5 “this is not something we feel great about.” The company offered the family a free one-on-one photo session with Santa, which Self declined. She’s suggesting the company instead donate to the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation.

When news of the incident broke, many customers took to Bass Pro Shops’ Facebook page to offer support to Self, stating they would no longer shop at the store, while others defended Santa, speculating that he didn’t feel comfortable and was trying to avoid hurting Caleb.

The Mighty reached out to Bass Pro Shops for comment and has not yet heard back.

Originally published: December 22, 2015
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