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Beeping Easter egg hunt ready for visually impaired kids

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–David Hyche has spent more than two months helping people hunt for answers to the Alabama church fires.

Hyche supervised the investigations as resident agent in charge for Birmingham’s Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives office. As the fire cases were wrapping up, he and his church, with help from his crime-solving colleagues, began planning a different sort of hunt — an Easter egg hunt for visually impaired children.

I’ve seen it done before in large cities like Washington, D.C., where they have beeping eggs for visually impaired kids to hunt,” said Hyche, whose 19-month-old daughter, Rachel, is blind. “It’s expensive to do so it’s not done very often.”

But Hyche, a member of North Shelby Baptist Church in Birmingham, had good help at his fingertips.

“I asked the guys from the Hoover and Birmingham police bomb squads to come help, and they agreed before I’d even gotten the request fully out,” he said.

Officers swarmed the fellowship hall at North Shelby Baptist March 28, quickly falling into an assembly line of wiring batteries, circuitry and pulsating beepers together and drilling holes into 50 plastic eggs so that the intermittent beeps could be heard.

“We tried a few of the eggs out with Rachel before today, and anything she didn’t destroy she thoroughly enjoyed,” Hyche said with a laugh. He turned to the group and shouted, “My daughter is quality control and will be here in a few minutes to see if yours pass the test,” prompting a laugh among the officers.

“I can imagine that it’s not really fun to be visually impaired and go to an Easter egg hunt,” Birmingham Sgt. Errol Culpepper said. “These eggs hopefully will help them be able to enjoy it.”

Hyche said when he thought of the project, he’d had his daughter in mind as well as the other children in his church and community who aren’t able to enjoy normal egg hunts. And getting the church on board with a separate hunt for visually impaired children in conjunction with their usual Easter egg hunt was a breeze — North Shelby Baptist already reaches out to those with special needs, Hyche noted.

“God has given us three visually impaired children in our church, and they are fully integrated and active in our church,” pastor Allan Murphy said, noting that since Rachel and another family’s twin 9-year-old girls came to North Shelby Baptist, church members have been trying to give special attention to their needs.

The church has also become more sensitive to opportunities to minister to blind children and their families through the Alabama Association for Parents of children with Visual Impairments (AAPVI), a support network Hyche has established.

AAPVI “has helped open our eyes to the needs,” Murphy said.

The congregation has since been exploring ways to reach out. Sunday School and Mother’s Day Out teachers offer tactile learning opportunities and lavish attention on the children, Hyche said. The church even has a multi-volume Braille Bible on hand.

And of course, there’s the Easter egg hunt, which will be held April 15 at a home near the church.

“It’s pretty difficult for a visually impaired child to find Easter eggs … well-meaning children will put their hands on the egg for them, and that doesn’t allow for the free participation, creativity and competition that kids love about Easter egg hunts,” Hyche said. “This will allow them to do it on their own.”

The “sighted” children will hunt first and then play on inflatables while the visually impaired children have the hunt all to themselves.

A helper will go with each child to disable the beepers and replace them with candy.

“Families of visually impaired children have needs that are unique, and we are trying to serve and understand those specific needs in the best possible way to give them support,” Hyche said.
Grace Thornton is assistant editor of The Alabama Baptist, online at www.thealabamabaptist.org. For more information about the Alabama Association for Parents of children with Visual Impairments, visit www.aapvi.org.