By SHERRI KOLADE
DEARBORN — Third-grader Khyiana Tate shared a message with Santa Claus Dec. 6 at Fairlane Town Center.
The Ralph J. Bunche Academy student, however, did not use words; she signed a message to Santa.
Tate, who is deaf, sat on Santa’s lap during the mall’s first signing Santa event for about 75 area deaf and hearing impaired students from Ralph J. Bunche Academy in Detroit and the Michigan School for the Deaf in Flint.
Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi and Great Lakes Crossing Outlets in Auburn Hills, also hosted events on Dec. 6, during National Signing Santa Day.
The students took pictures with Santa; visited a multi-sensory Ice Palace; watched an American Sign Language-interpreted movie, “Ice Age: Continental Drift;” and had lunch afterward. Deaf rapper Sean Forbes also performed a few Christmas songs at the event.
Forbes said he has childhood memories of his parents singing Christmas songs to him and he wanted to give something special to the students.
“It is really nice to be here today to share those memories with these other kids,” Forbes said through an interpreter.
Tate was all smiles after playing around inside the Ice Palace, a 30-foot ice dome with falling artificial snow, which nearly covered the girls’ pigtails and clothes.
Tate said through her mother and interpreter that she has visited a signing Santa a few times before in the last few years.
“I like being here,” she signed to her mother. “I know it is going to be Christmas soon.”
Tate’s mother, Khadija Anderson, of Detroit, said she is glad to have a Santa who can speak to her daughter in a way the she understands.
“I’m excited for her,” Anderson said, “especially since Santa can sign for her.”
Fairlane Town Center General Manager Catherine O’ Malley said the students had a wonderful experience with Santa.
“It was probably more exciting for us than the kids,” O’Malley said, “just to see their expressions and enjoy and really relate to it. It is one of those experiences that you just don’t get to share everyday.”
Lapeer resident Enoch Black took his three sons, who are deaf, to see Santa.
Black, who also is deaf, said through an interpreter his sons — from six months old to 4 years old — have never seen a signing Santa before.
Black said seeing his children sit on Santa’s lap for a picture was a special moment for the children.
“I was excited because that was the first time a Santa has ever signed to me and them,” Black said.