(CBS NEWS) – Santa Claus is known for making kids all around the world happy on Christmas morning — but he recently brought happy tears to an 8-year-old boy from Illinois. Baiz Weerts has wanted to meet Santa since he was 2 years old, his mom, Sheila Weidner Seelye, told CBS News. However, Baiz has autism and extreme anxiety, which has always prevented him from getting close to the man in the big red suit.
“He is very excited every single year,” Seelye told CBS News. “We go [to the mall] multiple times each year but we have to keep our distance. He just watches and waves.”
Seelye said the past few years, Baiz has been really trying to build up the nerve to sit by Santa. Sometimes, he tries to foster the courage for an hour or more — but each time, he has too much anxiety.
This year, he spent two hours at the Gurnee Mills mall, but he was still too nervous, his mom said. Baiz, however, was convinced that the Santa at this particular mall was the real one. So he wanted to go back.
When they went for another visit, Seelye took Baiz’s twin sister, Layna, up to see Santa. Baiz hung back with his aunt.
“Baiz was watching and hoping to go up by her, too. He was standing with his aunt and he started getting so anxious but frustrated with himself. So he climbed in the cart he was so upset,” Seelye said. “This is when Santa noticed his struggle!”
The mall Santa slowly walked toward the little boy, telling him over and over again, “You’re OK, buddy.” As Baiz sat in the shopping cart, Santa rubbed his head, handed him a candy cane and sticker, and kept assuring him it was going to be OK — and Seelye caught it all on camera.
Baiz was still nervous — but happy. “By the end of Santa talking to him he was crying the happiest cry I’ve ever seen from him. He had a smile while crying!!!” Seelye wrote on Facebook, sharing video and photos of the heartwarming interaction.
The mom said she was impressed that Santa didn’t judge Baiz — he just knew the boy was struggling, and needed help. “As a mom it meant the world to me that he saw my son and recognized his need. I cannot put into words how much that means,” she told CBS News.
While some people might see a kid crying and assume they’re scared of Santa, this jolly St. Nick somehow knew Baiz was crying because he did want to see him — he was just having a hard time.
Seelye said Baiz has continued to talk about Santa since they met last Saturday. That night, when his mom was putting him to bed, Baiz told her he knew that was the real Santa. “I feel it in my soul,” he said, Seelye told CBS News.