When my eldest child, Nuala, was a toddler I decided to take her to a local park for an Easter egg hunt. I was the only blind mother in attendance. My very mobile baby had bells tied to her shoes so I could hear her jingling around the field. But as soon as the cue to start was given, the screams of the other children completely drowned out the sounds of her jingling feet. Not only was I terrified, but in my panic, I accidentally began stepping on plastic eggs. By the time I had grabbed Nuala to console her the bottoms of my sneakers were sticky with chocolate and bits of plastic shells. Nuala was crying. I was crying. It was definitely not a good day.
My husband had seen a video about an ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives) agent named David Hyche. In 2005 Hyche sought a way for his blind daughter Rachel to participate in their church Easter egg hunt. Rachel was not yet two years old, but she already exhibited a desire for independence that would push Hyche to find ways for her to do things with little or no assistance. Hyche asked for help from co-workers and local law enforcement to construct the eggs. The bomb technicians and ATF certified explosives specialists are trained to work with electronic circuitry, which made them a natural fit to assemble the eggs. That year, Hyche held his own first event in Birmingham, Alabama. He’s continued the tradition ever since.
As the event grew in Birmingham, Hyche a member of the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators (IABTI), wanted to let other children nationwide join in the fun. After discussions, IABTI developed a partnership with the National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impaired (NAPVI) and the association now supplies materials nationwide to those interested in creating the beeping eggs for the visually-impaired children or they create the eggs and send them to those who request.
Once I connected with David, we became fast friends with the same mission. I brought the first ever beeping egg hunt to New York State and New York City in April 2018. The event — built on the message of “acceptance for all” – has attracted over 600 participants at its Staten Island location, the COMMONS Café. The property, owned by philanthropists, Lois & Richard Nicotra, created the café as a social enterprise restaurant establishment. 100 % of the profits every single day are redirected back into the Staten Island community via their foundation. It was a perfect setting for an inclusive cause.
In 2019, I received a request to extend the hunt to the Lavelle School for the Blind in the Bronx. Willing to go wherever God calls us, my husband and I enlisted the help of Yonkers Millennium and North Star Lions Club to bring a second yearly beeping egg hunt directly to Lavelle students. My husband and I are both proud members of Lions Club International.
Thankfully members of the New York State Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) continue to volunteer their time with me each year. Not only do they build the eggs free of charge, but they help guide the blind and visually impaired participants around our hunt locations both in Staten Island and in the Bronx.
We also receive support from the New York City Police Department who graciously provides mounted horses, highways motorcycles, canine dogs, and other police vehicles that allow blind and sighted participants the opportunity to engage with law enforcement.
Our family begins planning these events at the Thanksgiving dinner table. By Valentine’s Day, we are stuffing the over 6000 eggs we need to provide for these venues. It is a labor of love and part of Blind Motherhood’s commitment to education, community building, and ministry.
For more information on planning your own beeping egg hunt, reach out to me via email @ Holly@blindmotherhood.com. I am happy to share my hints, tips, and planning practices to bring this inclusive event to your community.