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Did you hear that egg?

Sight-impaired children hunt for "beeping eggs"

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Beeping eggs make it easy for sight-impaired children to experience a traditional Easter egg hunt.

To be sure it was an Easter egg hunt, but it was not the typical scramble for brightly colored eggs. This hunt, sponsored by the Blind Baby Foundation in Visalia, Calif., was for children who are visually impaired. “OK,” you say, “How does a blind kid track down an Easter egg?” Well, they do it with the help of “beeper eggs” donated by Zeiss, an optics tech company.

The egg hunt was staged in an emerald maze carved into a lush field of oats. Pathways were lined with hay bales. Clusters of bright helium-filled balloons bobbed in the spring breeze, helping to mark the path for the children. Just before the signal to “go,” helpers scurried to turn on all the little beepers that gave audible clues to their hiding places. Then tumbling, shrieking and laughing, the children ran to search out the hidden eggs. When all the treasures had been collected, the “beeper eggs” were traded for candy and other prizes.

But there was more — much more. Hunting for eggs was only a small part of the day’s events. On arrival the families were greeted by a life-size white rabbit, who graciously posed for pictures with the children and then directed people to the activity area. Before and after the hunt, egg hunters were invited to enjoy a barbeque hosted by the Blind Babies Foundation.

The Elbow Creek 4-H Club worked for weeks creating tactile books for the blind children, cutting and pasting many different textured items to the pages to help tell the story to the visually impaired children. Girl Scout troops, parents, vision specialists and friends helped supervise a variety of activities for the children.

This event was planned for not just blind children, but for their families as well. In one section of the field children could enjoy a petting zoo, and 4-H members helped insure the safety of the visually impaired kids as they stroked a pony, petted a rabbit, or felt the rough tongue of a friendly calf as it gave a gentle lick to the child’s hand. In a wading pool filled with golden kernels of dried field corn, the children enjoyed feeling the grain, sifting it through their fingers and pouring it from one container to another, much like they would enjoy playing in the sand. One station offered the opportunity to create an instant garden using potting soil and a choice of colorful flowering plants, pansies, snapdragons, impatiens and more.

Other stations offered opportunities to blow large iridescent bubbles, tracking them as they moved away, then feeling the little mist as the bubbles popped. A large table with freshly baked cupcakes invited blind and sighted children to come frost the sweets with delicious colorful icings and then decorate them with different sizes and shapes of sprinkles.

The world of sound and rhythm is so very important to a blind child. A large table filled with drums, tone bells and other musical instruments invited the children to explore new sounds.

The first Beeper Egg Hunt in Visalia, Calif., was held in 1993, and has been enjoyed every year since then. While it is usually held in a sunny field, this year the unusual rain made it necessary to relocate to a dry venue. As in past years it was still a tremendous success — much enjoyed by the children and their parents. No, it was not your average egg hunt but for sure it was one that touched the hearts of many.

Jeanie Oakleaf Anderson is a member of the Jottings group of the Lake Oswego.