Enes Saribas has been blind since birth. But the 7-year-old Alexandria resident was more than ready yesterday for his first Easter egg hunt.
At the signal "Go!" Enes cradled his white walking stick in his right elbow and crouched, moving his hands on the floor to locate one of the plastic eggs equipped with electronic "chirpers." He came up empty, but then his foot hit an egg and he tried again.
Down on his knees, he turned his ear to the floor to hear better and then swooped up the egg. Running his fingers over the egg's Braille label, he proudly discovered he'd won a dime. A few minutes later, the George Mason Elementary first-grader hunted down a second egg and jokingly announced that he'd won "millions."
The 25th annual Easter Egg Hunt for the Visually Impaired, sponsored by the local chapter of the Verizon Telecom Pioneers, a community volunteer group, had to abandon its customary venue at the foot of the Washington Monument because of rainy weather. But there was still plenty of excitement at the new location, in the second-floor hall of the West End public library in Northwest Washington.
About 30 visually impaired children participated in two egg hunts, using their hands and ears to locate the eggs that were fashioned from plastic hosiery containers. In a third hunt, 20 children with sight, many of them siblings of the visually impaired, wore blindfolds while searching for eggs. Each egg in the hunts had a label that linked it to a prize of a dime, quarter or dollar.
The climax of the activities, which included visits from Kermit the Frog, Mickey Mouse and the Easter Bunny, was the hunt for the Golden Egg. Christopher T. Burger, 8, of Springfield won that competition. His prize was a beeping baseball.
"This encourages independence," said event emcee Marc Maurer, president of the advocacy group National Federation of the Blind.
"It's important because many times it's thought that blind people cannot participate in activities that other people take for granted," Maurer added. "This shows them that there are alternative methods for doing things."
Before the hunts began, Sylvia Scoggins of Temple Hills, president of Verizon Pioneers for Prince George's County and chairman for the egg hunt, read greetings from Lynne Cheney, wife of the vice president. "You are celebrating the can-do spirit that has made our country great," Cheney's letter said.
Ryan Willms, 16, and his twin sister, Lindsay, who are visually impaired because of their premature births, are veteran egg-hunters. "I really like this, and I'm pretty good at it, too," said Ryan, who attends Hylton High School in Woodbridge and who hopes to become a pediatrician.
The twins' 8-year-old sister, Kaitlyn, helped as a volunteer and said her siblings' visual impairment "helps me understand how it feels" to be blind.
In between egg hunting, Ixchel Gomez, 6, of Lorton chatted amiably with her friend Joy Hu, 7, of Vienna. Both girls are visually impaired.
Ixchel, who wore her hair in braids and had a painted clown face on her left cheek, said she found the egg hunt "exciting." But she was more interested in Joy's outfit, running her hands over the pink velvet bunny ears on her friend's head.
"Let me see your boots," Ixchel chirped, running her hands down to Joy's black boots.
"Oh, you have boots just like me!" Ixchel declared.