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Several dozen blind and visually impaired children waited anxiously for the signal to start scavenging Saturday morning for the hundreds of vibrantly-colored Easter eggs that decorated a vast green area near River Oaks.

The eggs' aesthetic appeal meant little compared to the constant beeping "EE! EE! EE!" that led most of the children to their treasures.With baskets in one hand and canes in the other, youngsters ran and stumbled along, following their ears to the loud beeping eggs. Life sized bunnies traded candy and kisses for the children's findings.

"This is an egg-celent hunt," said 13-year-old Meagan Collins from Spring, laughing at her word choice. "I came up with that myself."Leaning on her father for support, Meagan, who was born three months premature and legally blind, managed to grab 10 beeping eggs.

Bigger than a regular egg

It wasn't as easy as it looked, the Robertson Middle School seventh-grader admitted."It's hard because once you get an egg, the only sound you can hear is the egg in your basket. So you can't really hear any of the other eggs anymore," said Meagan, who is considering becoming a writer and who shyly admitted to have read all four Twilight books in Braille.

The plastic beeping eggs are about three times the size of a regular Easter egg. Sealed shut with a beeper and battery inside, the eggs have two dime-sized holes that emit sound.This was the 29th annual beeping Easter egg hunt held by The Lighthouse of Houston, a nonprofit education and service center for the blind and visually impaired.

Chief operating officer of the center, Shelagh Moran, envisioned the beeping egg in 1982 and had an engineer develop it. Since then, visually impaired children ages 13 and under have come out with their parents and siblings to partake in the egg hunt, wagon rides and carnival games.

"I picked up a lot," said 7-year-old Ariyah Malone, beaming with pride. On the other side of the grounds, Ariyah's younger brother and sister participated in the sibling egg hunt that had non-beeping eggs.
Ariyah lost her sight to meningitis when she was four months old, but her family strives to make her feel the same as her siblings."It's a good event for them because everyone's on the same level," said Ariyah's grandmother, Jennifer Alexander. "Ariyah doesn't feel different."

Equal opportunity

To foster that feeling, event volunteers blindfolded all carnival game participants so that both the visually impaired children and their sighted siblings had an equal chance at games like pinning the tail on the bunny and tossing the bean bag through the hole."This way, everybody in the family can participate," said Diana Solis, recreation assistant at the center.Besides the egg hunt, Solis and the recreation team also hold other hands-on and tactile events for children, including a Halloween carnival, and trips to the zoo.

[source: Safiya Ravat,The Houston Chronicle]