The Times West Virginian

April 20, 2014

Children with disabilities enjoy hunting for Easter eggs: PHOTOS

By Colleen S. Good
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Thousands of brightly colored plastic eggs lined the halls at the Disability Action Center (DAC) at 102 Benoni Ave. in Fairmont Saturday.

There were eggs on tables and doorknobs, in the gym and on the handrails. There were eggs for everyone.

Saturday, the DAC held its annual Easter Egg Hunt for children with disabilities, their siblings and their families. Volunteers, many from the Fairmont General Hospital (FGH) Rehabilitation Center, helped hide the eggs and helped the children make sure they found every single last one.

The event was sponsored by the Fairmont Rehabilitation Center of FGH, the DAC, Marion County Special Olympics, Woodmen of the World, the Illusive Skull and Papa John’s Pizza.

Luke Davis, director of rehabilitation at FGH, said that the egg hunt provides a valued alternative for children who may not fare as well at a traditional egg hunt.

“Some of the parents were complaining and saying, ‘We went to an Easter egg hunt, and my child got absolutely zero eggs because they couldn’t get around,’” Davis said. “So I thought, let’s get this started.”

Because some of the children have mobility issues, or may move a little slower, it can be hard for the kids to compete with other children to get eggs at other egg hunts, which tend to be held outdoors. But at the DAC, the building is fully accessible. The children can go at their own pace and have their siblings and families helping them along the way.

The egg hunt started off with a pizza party, with pizza, vegetables and cookies for the families. The pizza was provided before the egg hunt to provide an opportunity for families to gather before the hunt, so all the kids would have the chance to start at the same time when it was time to begin the egg hunt.

There were around 42 egg hunters participating this year. There were also more than 20 volunteers.

“This was our biggest yet,” Davis said. The first year of the egg hunt, there were 12 egg hunters participating, and the event has grown every year.

Davis said the biggest reward was the thanks from the families.

“They always have big smiles on their faces,” Davis said.

After finishing up with pizza, the kids lined up at the hallway entrance to the rest of the building. Children in wheelchairs were first in line. When the door was opened, children excitedly went through the halls, grabbing as many eggs as they could find. But no one shoved or tried to steal eggs from other children.

Parent Sue Godfrey said she has been coming to the event for many years, and appreciates the opportunity it gives for all of the children to take part.

“An event like this allows all of them to participate in something that other kids can also participate, and at their own speed,” Godfrey said. “It’s important because it’s someone showing that our kids do matter.”

After the Easter egg hunt, children sat at tables and on the ground, emptying out their Easter eggs to collect the candy prizes hidden inside. The event concluded with a visit from the Easter Bunny, and a prize table, where all of the children got to pick the prize of their choice. Prizes included puzzles, plush bunnies, candy bags, stickers and sidewalk chalk.

Julie Sole, director of the DAC, said that the DAC enjoys hosting the event each year.

“We look forward to the Easter egg hunt every year because it’s our opportunity to serve younger children with disabilities,” Sole said. “Primarily, through the school year, we focus on adult programming, continuing education and job readiness. But the Easter egg hunt is a nice introduction to families that are maybe not already receiving our services, and it will get them accustomed to coming to summer programming, such as our day camps, book clubs, readings and some of the things that we offer for the younger folks.”

Sole said that the DAC is an ideal location for the egg hunt.

“It’s accessible, you have inside and outside, the majority of the folks already feel comfortable here, and it’s ramp-accessible,” Sole said. “So it’s really the ideal place to bring everybody together.”

Sole said that having the Easter Bunny make an appearance was a real treat for the children.

“Due to obviously some mobility issues or some sensory issues, some of our children with disabilities fare better in an environment they know, such as this, in a place where their families can be here, their siblings can be here, and they can all participate together on an even playing field,” Sole said.

J.J. Hayes, 5 years old, collected a lot of Easter eggs this year.

“I got the most eggs!” Hayes squealed. “A whole bucketful!”

Hayes said his favorite part of Easter is getting to see the Easter Bunny. As soon as the Easter Bunny came out to sit down for pictures, Hayes went right up to the front of the circle surrounding him, and started to dance and jump.

“It’s the Easter Bunny!” he said.

Email Colleen S. Good at cgood@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @CSGoodTWV.