Easter fun

Tunnel Church egg hunt a tradition for almost 30 years

Lauren Morgan, 4, and big sister Reagan, 7, open eggs following the annual Easter egg hunt hosted by Tunnel United Methodist Church.

In fewer than five minutes, the hard work put in by nearly 20 volunteers with the Tunnel United Methodist Church to load candy into and tape shut 3,000 plastic Easter eggs was completely undone. But if those volunteers could be paid in squeals of delight and chocolate smeared faces, they’d be very well-compensated for their time.

For nearly 30 years, the small community church along Ohio 550 in Tunnel has hosted this annual event with the hopes of offering local children a few moments of fun in early spring and bringing them closer to God, said organizer Amy Peckens.

“We feel like doing this is a way of serving God, and introducing God to the kids,” she said.

The tradition of eggs at Easter has origins in pagan rituals as the egg is an ancient symbol of life, according to USA Today, but from a religious standpoint is grounded in the resurrection of Jesus. “The Easter egg is also a byproduct of Lent, as many families would give up eggs during those fast days, which end with Easter,” the national newspaper goes on to add.

The Easter egg hunt hosted at Inman-Liberty Park in Warren Township by Tunnel United Methodist Church was one of many that took place across the Mid Ohio Valley during Easter weekend.

Brantley Coffman, 2, picks up an egg during the Tunnel United Methodist Church Easter egg hunt. There were about 15 toddlers between the ages of 0-2 who participated in the event.

Given the number of years the church has held the event, they have it down almost to a science, Peckens said. Given that the park is just adjacent to the church, organizers have easy access to supplies and an alternate location should the spring rains threaten to dampen the fun. Luckily, that didn’t happen Saturday.

They buy candy and accept donations from parishioners leading up to the event and spend a few hours the day before filling the eggs.

“We tape each one of them shut because if we don’t, when we toss them out into the grass with buckets, they’ll open up and no one wants that,” Peckens said. This year, because the grassy areas of the park were muddy or had standing water in them, they worked to keep the eggs the older children were hunting closer to the paved paths than in other years.

“Usually when you look out into the grass, it’s dotted with color,” she added.

Organizers stage the event at different areas of the park based on four separate age groups: toddlers, preschoolers, Kindergarten through second grade and then third through sixth grades. They had around 50 children participate this year.

Tommy Welsh, who is almost 2 years old, watched from his house right behind the park as volunteers with Tunnel United Methodist Church peppered the playground area of the park with eggs for toddlers to find.

“He loves to do stuff where he can pick things up,” his mother, Shelbi Welsh said. “He had fun. I think when he realizes what’s inside the egg, it’ll be even more fun for him,” she said laughing.

This was the second year that Jake Proctor, 29, brought his daughters, Aubrianna, 5, and Brynnley, 2, to this Easter egg hunt.

“They love Easter egg hunting,” he said. “It’s one of their favorite things to do.”

Many people, like Proctor — whose grandma is a member of the Tunnel United Methodist — attend the egg hunt specifically because they have ties to the church.

Roxanne Cline, 34, is a member of the church. Her mother, Maryanne Burns, usually explains the meaning of Easter to her grandchildren Nathaniel, 7, and Cheyanne, 4. “I tell them that Easter is about Jesus, our Lord, who died for us,” she said, emotion welling in her voice. “He’s risen and because of that we are saved.”

Reagan Morgan, 7, estimated that she found about 1,000 eggs. “There was a bunch of people and I thought I’d only get a few eggs,” she said.

Her family recently moved to the community and thought the egg hunt would be a good way to meet new people, her mother, Meredith Morgan, 39, said.

After the egg hunt concluded, the children sat in the park’s picnic shelter cracking open their eggs and retrieving the chocolate and candy treats inside. All guests were also invited back to the multi-purpose building at the church for kid-themed activities and refreshments.

Peckens was pleased to be able to host the event for the community’s kids another year.

“Easter is all about resurrection and new life, and this is our way of celebrating that with children, who are our new life,” she said.