Beeping Easter eggs help visually impaired children

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 22, 2011

By Annette Fuller
The Winston-Salem Journal
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Easter egg hunts are fun to watch.
A special egg hunt recently at Reynolda Gardens in Winston-Salem was also cool to listen to.
About 25 visually-impaired children — many of them experiencing their first springtime Easter egg hunt — used their ears to find several “beeping” eggs spread out in part of the gardens.
“Blind kids always miss out on the Easter egg hunts,” Angie Swaim, a corporal with the Winston-Salem Police Department bomb squad, which sponsored the event. “Today is their day.”
Families with blind children came from throughout the Triad, and central North Carolina to attend the event, dubbed Spring Eggsplosion.
Andrew Dellinger of Denver, in Lincoln County, brought his 4-year-old, Madison. It was her first Easter egg hunt.
“She has never gotten any eggs,” Dellinger said. “She woke up this morning, all excited about coming.”
The “follow-the-beep” egg hunt was a first for Winston-Salem and for all of North Carolina, Swaim said. The department plans to make it an annual event. The idea for the hunt was hatched last September when several members of the city’s bomb squad, who are experts in circuitry and electronics, attended a meeting of the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators.
One presenter, David Hyche, who is an Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent from Alabama, has a blind daughter, and he showed convention attendees how to make beeping Easter eggs.
In the past months, the bomb squad prepared 88 beeping Easter eggs. They took large plastic Easter eggs, drilled holes into them to allow for the sound to escape, and put inside each one a 9-volt battery attached to a buzzer. They even attached an on-and-off switch at one of each egg.
“If we can’t handle a circuit, we’re in trouble,” joked Swaim.
Each egg costs about $8 to make. The association provided the materials for about 70 of them, and the Winston-Salem bomb technicians covered the rest of the costs.
An area inside Reynolda Gardens was roped off as the Easter egg hunt area. After the eggs were put on the ground, two to three visually impaired children at a time were allowed in, so that they could listen for the beeps and go to the egg. They picked them up, put them in their baskets and then exchanged the eggs for small toy prizes and candy.
Jamie and Drew Southern of Winston-Salem brought their 3-year-old twins, Will and Lindy, to the event. Will is not visually impaired, but organizers encouraged families to bring all of their children.
“It’s an amazing program, to do this for the kids,” said Jamie Southern.
Amy Hooker of Lewisville brought her 7-year-old son, Caleb, to his first Easter egg hunt, as well. Caleb, who has some sight, carefully looked over and touched the tray of prizes when he turned in his Easter eggs, choosing rubber balls, whistles and candy.
“He was born premature at 1 pound, 11 ounces,” Hooker said. “He’s done amazingly well.” She added that he is being mainstreamed into Sherwood Forest Elementary School.
At the police booth, children were treated to toy police badges, lollipops, and wind-up police officer toys. The children and their families were also fascinated with the bomb-fetching robots on display.
“It can go out for a mile, at 10 miles per hour. It weighs 410 pounds and is operated by remote control,” Billy Williams, senior bomb technician, told the children.
The children also enjoyed booths for face painting and bubbles, and were entertained by a clown from Circus Daze in Kernersville.