By Paul Lonardo
For the past eight or nine years, the Smithfield Senior Center has always done a small Easter egg hunt for Break Start Academy in Greenville. This year, they teamed up with Smithfield’s Parks and Recreation Department, and it was a staffer in the department who came up with the idea to use glow-in-the-dark eggs and have the event at night. Everyone at the senior center immediately loved the idea.
Kate McAdam-Prickett, the center’s Programs and Activities Coordinator, says they weren’t sure what the capacity would be, but they sold out in just a few days.
“We had a link posted on Eventbrite, and every age group was filled up in a matter of forty-eight hours,” she says. “It was crazy. It was like a hundred and fifty kids.”
It was an overwhelming response that they did not anticipate, and was much bigger than the past years when they planned traditional Easter egg hunts. So they had to figure out how they were going to make this work logistically. It was no small endeavor.
“In the planning process we had a lot of things to consider, and a lot of questions to answer.” Kate says. “How many eggs do we get? Do we fill all the eggs? Where do we find glow-in-the-dark eggs?”
They found a website that sold phosphorescent eggs and bought seven hundred fifty, five for each kid. They placed Glow-Sticks around with eggs, which were not filled. Each child received the same goody bag filled with treats, gift certificates and toys. With the help of volunteers, which ensured that everyone got five eggs, it worked out great, according to Kate. It was fair. It wasn’t chaotic. And most of all, everyone had fun.
“We were fortunate enough to get volunteers from Target in Smithfield,” Kate says. “They were also one of our sponsors, providing gift cards to use for some of the prizes in the goody bags. They gave us a generous discount on all the Easter stuff we needed. They were so wonderful to work with.”
Target has a community group that provides volunteers for a variety of events and other action initiatives around town. The group had recently helped paint one of the banquet rooms at the Senior Center, and when approached about assisting with the Easter egg hunt this year, they were more than happy to come out and help. Besides Target, other sponsors included A&W Root Beer, which provided coupons for the goody bags. They brought their mascot, the A&W Bear, to the joy of the little ones. Texas Roadhouse also lent their support, providing free kids’ meal coupons for their restaurant in Cranston. And State Representative Thomas Winfield donated funding for the hiring of local DJ Ray Arruda.
“He was great,” Kate says. “He played games with the kids, and had them dancing and entertained while the older kids went out hunting for eggs.”
With so many kids, they couldn’t all participate at once, so the event was divided up into multiple age groups, with the younger ones going first. The participants spanned a range in age from Pre-K right on up to Young At Heart, for adults of any age. Special needs children were accommodated as well, and many of the parents got involved, lending their support and dancing, though that may have been in part to try to stay warm. It was a chilly night, but it all ran very smoothly and everyone had a good time.
The event taking place this year on the week of school vacation probably had a lot to do with the overwhelming attendance. Since it took place after Easter Sunday this year, the concept was that although the Easter Bunny had gone, he left some Easter eggs at Deerfield Park, which added to the excitement by extending the Easter holiday. With the glow-in-the-dark feature this year, the annual event was certainly unique, and it may have set the bar high for the event next year, which is not a problem for the event’s coordinators and support staff.
“We’ll definitely do it again next year,” Kate says. “Absolutely. With the kind of turn out we had, we would want to give the kids the same thing next year. Only better.”
For other fun, upcoming community events, please check the Smithfield Senior Center and Park and Recreation Facebook pages https://www.facebook.com/smithfieldseniorctr and https://www.facebook.com/Smithfield-Parks-and-Recreation-165560443586846/. Photo courtesy of the Smithfield Senior Center.