The College of Optometry’s NOSA organization has been doing the Annual Easter Egg hunt for many years. Its aim is to allow children with visual problems to hunt for eggs that are designed to beep. This year’s egg hunt was different. Instead of the annual event being held on campus, Lauren Dermody (’21), Salmedina Alic (’21), and Meagan Anderson (’21) connected with the St. Charles Parks and Recreation Department. That department holds a unique egg hunt every year at the Youth Activity Center in Dardenne Prairie, MO.
Parks and Recreation wanted to expand the reach not only to the low vision community, but also to those with sensory-related issues, for a mobility-adapted hunt. Lauren Dermody explains, “We decided to partner with St. Charles County this year because they reached out to us when they heard we have been hosting the beeping egg hunt here at UMSL. They wanted our help reaching the low vision community because they didn’t have those connections.” The event included SSM Cardinal Glennon, St. Charles County Police, St. Charles County Ambulance Service, Lutheran High School robotics team, Chick-fil-A, Guardians of the Galaxy, Crossroads Church, UMSL Optometry, and Bahama Buck’s. Activities and special demonstrations were conducted prior to the hunts.
The combined event allowed NOSA to utilize resources the organization did not have prior to this new partnership. “I wanted to partner with them because they had access to more resources, and I thought that would make it an even better experience for the children,” Dermody commented. The hunt drew in nearly 400 children and was a sold-out event.
The Easter bunny made an appearance, as well as the St. Charles County Bomb and Arson Unit, who worked with members of the Lutheran High School robotics team to build the beeping eggs for the low vision hunt. A surprise visit by the St. Charles County Police helicopter allowed all ages to get up close and personal with the chopper to learn more about its use and capabilities. Two-year old Ryan was one of the hunters in the low vision hunt, and it was his first time he hunted Easter eggs. Shannon Smith, Ryan’s mom, commented, “This is the first time he has ever hunted eggs, and we never knew this event existed. It was so awesome to see him able to participate.” The event, according to Dermody, “Is so impactful because you get to hear the excitement from low vision families who never thought their child would be able to participate in a traditional egg hunt. The beeping eggs make that a possibility for them. I would love to have more UMSL representation at the hunt next year, and maybe we could do some visual activities to promote eye heath and awareness for the families!” Leann Hogan, who serves as the assistant director of the Youth Activity Park, is excited to work with the college again next year and to continue to strengthen the relationship between UMSL and the Activity Park.