ARLINGTON — About 300 Easter egg hunters gathered on the track of Haller Middle School on the evening of Saturday, March 31, to help support the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life, all while scoring a few seasonal goodies for themselves.
Heidi Clark, who organized what she hopes will be the first in an annual series of flashlight Easter egg hunts, estimated that the event raised roughly $1,500 for this year’s Arlington Relay For Life. Clark came up with the event for her own Relay team, Friends For Life, and for her 10-year-old daughter Makenzie Leathers’ team, Friends For Life Youth, three months before Easter egg hunters descended upon the Haller Middle School stadium.
“I’m glad everyone came,” said Clark, whose team has dedicated this year’s efforts in honor of the mother of one of Clark’s friends, who passed away from cancer, and two members of the team, who have survived their own battles with cancer. “With all the rain earlier in the day, I was scared they wouldn’t.”
Clark and her crew of nine volunteers filled 1,600 plastic eggs with $500 worth of donated prizes. The American Cancer Society covered the cost of insurance for the event, while the Arlington School District donated the use of their facilities for free. Only the utilities costs needed to be paid, for a cost of $18 an hour for two hours, so the local Lifeway Foursquare Church kicked in $25, leaving Clark with a total cost of only $11 to fund the entire event.
“That allows all the money we make to go directly to the American Cancer Society,” Clark said. “It’s exciting how this all started from such a small thing. After I first got the idea, I kept coming up with ways to make it bigger, and I finally couldn’t sleep because of all the ideas I had.”
Clark was surprised by how smoothly everything seemed to fall into place, although she admitted that not everything was as easy as she’d expected.
“It takes a really long time to fill 1,600 eggs,” Clark laughed. “I didn’t think about that. It’s amazing how willing this community has been to give, though. All the local businesses helped out. If not for the donations from them and others, this simply wouldn’t have happened.”
Indeed, Clark found that the hardest part was just working up the nerve to ask for contributions from those businesses, community groups and individuals.
“Don’t give up and don’t tell yourself, ‘Oh, well, I probably won’t get anything from them, so I just won’t bother to ask,’” Clark said.
Although Clark is considering staggering the start of next year’s flashlight Easter egg hunt, to separate it into different age groups, those who attended this year expressed enthusiasm aplenty for the event, just as Clark did once it finally happened.
“It was so cool to see the stadium lights go out and all the flashlights go on,” Clark said.
“Okay, you guys need to calm down,” said Danial Wanke, as he gently soothed 8-year-old daughter Alyssa and 11-year-old son Matt’s excitement over how much loot they scored from their eggs. The Wankes drove from Shoreline to support the event, because Danial has another child with leukemia and habitually contributes to cancer charities, but he found himself enjoying the event for its own sake as well.
“Alyssa got two prize tickets,” Danial Wanke said, before laughing, “Even in the dark, it took us about 30 seconds to collect all the eggs we were going to get. It was fast.”
Even though some teens might claim they’re too mature or too cool to turn out for such an event, especially bringing bags for their Easter eggs, 17-year-old Lakewood High School students Alexa Chase and Manoela Zeppone donned their light-up wigs and swarmed the field with the younger kids all the same.
“Both of our moms made us come, but it was actually really fun,” Chase said. “It’s a really cool idea that I never would have thought of before.”