By RONDA GREGORY
News & Journal Staff Writer
Visually impaired children and their blindfolded siblings enjoyed an “egg-stra” special tradition again this year – going on a beeping egg hunt March 28th in Bridgeport.
This year, six children attended The Bill Miles Memorial Egg Hunt for the Visually Impaired, sponsored by the Bridgeport Lions Club. Because of construction at the usual hunt location in Compton Park, it was held across the road on the lawn and parking lot of the Bridgeport Presbyterian Church, said Ruth Allen, a member of the Bridgeport Woman’s Club that helps with the event.
While this idea has been catching on throughout the country for several years, here in Harrison County, the late Miles originated the event in Bridgeport, which has been ongoing for about ten years. Miles, who had been a Lions member, developed the beeping eggs. They are made-up of a shell with a switch, the beeper, battery and an on-off switch.
Bill Allen, a Lions member who organizes the event each year, said Miles experimented with different shells (containers for the beepers) and, for a time, used the plastic L’eggs hosiery packages until they were discontinued. Now they use plastic air fresheners as casings.
The special hunt allows more children to more independently fully participate in the long-standing tradition. Before the beeping eggs hunt, blind and visually impaired children had to be led to the regular eggs by others.
The hidden eggs, which emit a beeping sound, enable the children to find them via sound rather than sight. This allows the children to find their own eggs and fully participate in the fun of hunting. When they locate the egg, they’re given a corresponding colorful plastic Easter egg filled with candies, according to Ruth Allen.
It’s important to involve the siblings (who are blindfolded during the hunt) of the children with sight concerns, Ruth explained. “They really get to understand what their visually impaired sibling has to deal with every day, because they have to use only their hearing to locate the eggs as well.”
Ruth Allen said she talked to one of the children’s teachers, who told her the little girl had “had a ball and looks forward to it every year.”
Bill Allen said he, the other Lions Club members and others who help with the hunt love seeing the children find their eggs.
“It’s delightful to see their faces light up,” he said. “They jump up and down. They really enjoy it, and are so excited to come in and count how many eggs they’ve found.”
Drew Tate, Bridgeport Lions Club Vice President, said he’s proud to be the keeper of the beepers between egg hunts.
“It’s an honor, particularly because of the designer – the late Bill Miles,” Tate said and explained that, sadly, Miles died before he could even attend one of the beeping egg hunts. “He didn’t get to see it.”
Tate maintains the beeping eggs and makes sure they’re in working order from year to year.
“This is my favorite (Lion’s Club) project of the ones we do,” he said. “The smiles on the kids’ faces at the hunt are worth every minute of working on the project.”
The actual hunt was not the only fun. After the children gathered their finds, they enjoyed home-baked cookies, individual Easter baskets stuffed with more candies and toy animals, provided by the Woman’s Club of Bridgeport.
Tate said their club has gladly shared their project idea and their blueprint of how to make their beeping eggs for other groups in the state, so that even more children can benefit from the special egg hunt.
Tate said he and his wife visited the Parkersburg club, which is implementing the same there. “What Bill (Miles) started eight years ago continues to grow.”