At the Blind Childrens Center's annual Easter egg hunt Friday morning, volunteers hid colorful eggs in plain sight. The eggs are "filled" with batteries — not candy — allowing the blind and visually impaired to join their sighted classmates in the holiday activity.
"Our eggs are special; they make sounds," teacher Rosalinda Mendiola explained. "So the children that can't see — they can listen for the eggs and they can find them on their own. [The eggs are] tactile, so they can feel them, the different textures that they have."
Mendiola said the school focuses on giving disabled students an opportunity to learn skills that will help them live independently in a mostly sighted society. Only half of the center's students are visually impaired or blind, and their interactions with other kids teach important social cues. Similarly, the Easter egg hunt lets them participate in a typical childhood tradition.
As the eggs were turned on, the space filled with a cacophony of beeping.
"Some of the visually impaired kids really like the sound, and then some are kind of turned off by it. It can be overwhelming," said Jessica Singleton, public relations, marketing & volunteer coordinator.
Seven-year-old Nicolas Bahamondes stepped onto the grass with a folding cane for the visually impaired. He eventually grabbed hold of a pink egg, aided by teachers and volunteers. Bahamondes' mother Irma Gomez snapped photos close by. She said doctors noticed a problem with his retinas when he was 15 months old.
"It was very, very hard for us to find out, because when he was born, we thought everything was fine with him, until we started seeing that he was holding the books too close to his eyes, or getting too close to his friends, and that's when we started wondering what's going on," Gomez recalled.
Gomez said the egg hunt was just as exciting for her as it was for her son.
"It's just a 'beep, beep, beep,' you hear a sound, and then you just have to go after it," she said. "So it's really exciting, even for me, as a mother, to see my son being able just to hear that beep and go follow that."
Parents, siblings and relatives filled the school's backyard, guiding children towards the eggs, taking pictures or looking on. The center encourages family involvement, whether it's supporting kids at an Easter egg hunt or attending programs and meetings to cope with their children's disabilities.
"[The Blind Childrens Center] helped us through all the dealing with diagnosis, and they were there next to us, literally holding our hands, guiding us through every step, answering all the questions that we had, helping us with doctors visits, and understanding what the terms were," Gomez said.
For Gomez, the Blind Childrens Center has served as her second home, and events like the Easter egg hunt reinforce that.