Searching by sound

Published 10:41 am Monday, March 29, 2010

On a gorgeous day at Triple S Farm in Wilsonville, parents and families chatted while children searched for Easter eggs.

However, there was a slight difference between this Easter egg hunt and all the other ones happening March 27. Instead of searching by sight, these children, all of whom have visual disabilities, were searching by sound.

For this hunt, set up for the Alabama Association for Parents of Visually Impaired Children, each of the brightly colored Easter eggs had beepers to allow the children to find them.

Various law enforcement agencies from the area, including the Hoover Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, helped make the hunt a success by constructing the beeping eggs.

ATF agent David Hyche, whose daughter, Rachel, 5, is visually impaired, started the hunts five years ago. He said he originally did it to help Rachel have normal childhood experiences, then realized the hunt could help other parents in the same situation.

“I just wanted to know (Rachel) could enjoy it too. Having someone find the eggs for you is no fun,” Hyche said. “They’ve got to learn how to do things on their own.”

Hyche said 40 eggs were constructed for the Wilsonville hunt. About 200 eggs total were constructed for five planned hunts.

Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry said while his guys helped construct the eggs, he attended the hunt because of a personal connection.

“My connection is personal. One of the fathers here has a visually impaired daughter, and he’s a federal ATF agent. We’re personal friends,” Curry said. “It’s just to see the reaction and the excitement on the kids’ faces, participating in an Easter egg hunt when prior to this they never could.”

Pastor Allan Murphy of North Shelby Baptist Church, which helps sponsor the hunt, said his church is involved in order to show everyone deserves the same experiences in life.

“The saying, ‘Jesus loves the little children, all the little children of the world,’ refers not to just nationalities but also to their conditions,” Murphy said. “For us, it’s a way to show love.”

Lori Planson’s daughter, Emma, 4, has underdeveloped eyes. Emma can see light and sometimes color, but without the beeping eggs, an Easter egg hunt would be impossible.

“Previously, before David came up with this idea, she was too little to hunt for eggs, but it is always in the back of your mind – she’s not going to be able to do this,” Lori said. “But the fact she can do it is just amazing.”

Seven law enforcement agencies were involved in the hunt, including Hoover Police, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, ATF, Gadsden Police, Birmingham Police, Homewood Police and Birmingham Fire.