Electronic eggs guide blind students to Easter bounty

By Susan Parrish, Columbian Education Reporter



Wearing a crown adorned with homemade bunny ears, Tabitha Smith swayed from side to side Thursday, awaiting her first Easter egg hunt at the Washington State School for the Blind.

The 12-year-old had transferred from Bellingham in November. She had only hunted eggs with masses of sighted kids and without the benefit of an electronic beep guiding her to the Easter basket bounty.

“I’ve had disastrous egg hunts before where I only got two eggs,” she said.

“That won’t happen here,” said Jamy Pinter, 33, her sighted guide who stayed by her side during the hunt.

Tabitha was among 50 students from the Washington State School for the Blind and 35 sighted volunteers who joined in the Easter egg hunt.

The event was produced by the CenturyLink Pioneers’ Oregon Chapter, consisting of active and retired Qwest employees and retirees from former Bell System companies. They came prepared with 51 electronic Easter eggs, 100 pounds of candy and 52 dozen plastic eggs. They also had baskets and stuffed animals for each child.

Similar egg hunts are produced by CenturyLink at state schools for the blind around the country.

Dee Dudek, the CenturyLink Pioneer who is the head Easter bunny behind the fifth-annual event, said, “there isn’t a kid who won’t go home with a basket that isn’t full.”

As the day warmed from a snowy start, CenturyLink employees and retirees from the region donned bunny ears to help kids steer clear of obstacles.

Tabitha and the rest of the kids lined up on the sidewalk as volunteers turned the switches on the electronic eggs, filling the air with the sound of beeping. Clutching their baskets, the kids moved forward.

The hunt was on.

Mark Stewart, 18, was cool and collected about the egg hunt.

“I’ve done it lots of times,” he said.

But Nathaniel Baker, 13, dropped to his knees in the grass and filled his basket with goodies.

Anastasia Riddle, 17, her basket brimming with goodies, started cramming candy into her pockets.

“I’ve done this hunt five times. Dark chocolate is my favorite.”

In the heat of the hunt, Nick Hawk, 11, a fifth-grader at Truman Elementary, served as the sighted guide to his little brother, Garrett Hawk, 8. It takes teamwork for a successful hunt.

After the hunt as both boys examined their loot, they each clutched a yellow toy bird from their basket.

“Those are brother birds,” said their mom, Tracy Hawk, 37.

Susan Parrish: 360-735-4530 or susan.parrish@columbian.com.