Special needs egg hunt defies chilly weather
The Hawk Eye - 4/1/2018
April 01--Eight-year-old Memphis Berges of Burlington has lived with autism and ADHD his entire life, and is terrified of large crowds.
Because of that, he's missed out on childhood activities his peers take for granted. For him, regular Easter egg hunts are an impossibility -- other than the ones his parents hold in the backyard.
"We tried regular Easter egg hunts. He would get out of the car, see all the craziness, and say 'I want to go home,'" said his mother, Megan Berges.
That all changed Saturday morning. Megan Berges was one of the organizers of Eggcessible Special Needs Easter Egg Hunt at Community Field, which caters specifically to children and adults with special needs. About 200 families signed up for the event, and the kids had plenty of time to pick their way through the brightly colored eggs.
The atmosphere was peaceful, the frigid wind was annoying, and the continual threat of rain loomed overheard. The eggs had to be moved to the grass parking area outside Community Field to avoid damaging the soggy baseball diamond.
None of it mattered. The tiny faces poking out of hooded winter jackets were plastered with smiles.
"My son just went on his first Easter egg hunt," Berges said.
The hunt was divided into several sections, including a field dedicated entirely to children bound by wheelchairs. The children used magnetic poles that stuck to the bottom of each egg, where the magnet was located.
"I thought it was very fun," said 12-year-old Bethannie Bernard, who gets around with the help of a wheelchair.
She was flanked on either side by two student volunteers from the Leo Club -- 14-year-old Jessica Kendell, and 14-year-old Hannah Hentzel. The Leo Club is a junior version of the Burlington Noon Lions Club, and both girls gently moved the eggs around on the ground so the magnet side was face up.
"My dad is part of Lion's Club, and I see the kind of stuff he does. You just get to help people. It's really fun," Kendell said.
While the morning hunt was all about the kids and special needs adults, Jason Dreckmeier pointed out that it's just as therapeutic for the parents. Because of its small size, the special needs community in Burlington and the surrounding areas is pretty tight knit. They share an understanding that doesn't have to be put into words.
"Pretty much everyone out here knows what we experience on a daily basis," he said.
Dreckmeier's daughter, 8-year-old Madison, was diagnosed with an extra chromosome when she was 16 months old. The doctors gave Dreckmeier's family contacts for support groups, saying the diagnosis has split some families apart.
It only drew the Dreckmeiers family closer together.
"She's a rockstar, man," Dreckmeier said about his daughter.
Matt McGhghy, of Keokuk, recently hosted the first special needs Easter egg hunt in Keokuk. His 7-year-old-son, Bentley, has cerebral palsy, which is why McGhghy helped design a special needs playground in Keokuk. It was Bentley's first Easter egg hunt in Burlington.
"We want to give the kids a chance to enjoy something without congestion and without being stared at," he said.
There was a drawing for prizes once the hunt was done, and Batman and Wonder Woman even put in an appearance. Due to the chilly wind, most of Wonder Woman's costume -- worn by Burlington resident Andrea Edmunds -- was hidden under a coat.
It didn't help much.
"I'm freezing," she said, doing her best to smile.
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