The coronavirus pandemic has halted much of regular life, especially for kids.
Whether it’s big things like going to school, or small but important things like play dates with friends or seeing Grandma and Grandpa, life these days isn’t quite the same.
Even holiday events like Easter will be drastically different. There won’t be any Masses to attend, family dinners to make or Easter egg hunts to participate in.
But one local mom is trying to keep the spirit alive for other families.
Liz Stinman of Council Bluffs started the Great Omaha Easter Egg Hunt after hearing about a similar event in her hometown of Lincoln.
Participants color or create eggs to hang in a street-facing window. It’s similar to the Shamrock Hunt that took place across Omaha on St. Patrick’s Day. They then anonymously submit their address to a Google Form, which is pinned to the group’s shared Google Map.
“With this map, individuals and families can ‘hunt’ the eggs while driving around to different neighborhoods,” Stinman said.
She encourages participants to use the hashtag #GreatOmahaEggHunt across social media platforms.
The egg hunt is open to all community members and businesses in the Omaha metro area, as well as outlying communities such as Ashland, Bellevue, Bennington, Council Bluffs, Elkhorn, Gretna, Millard and Plattsmouth. People are free to hang eggs and submit their addresses through Easter, April 12.
The idea for the Omaha-area egg hunt, Stinman said, started after a phone call from her mom, who told her about the Great Lincoln Egg Hunt. Stinman reached out to the administrators of that Facebook group and asked if she could use their general structure and language to start an Omaha group, and then personalized it. She also searched Facebook and Google to make sure she wasn’t “infringing on someone else’s territory or duplicating something.”
“As a result of the pandemic, we, as a society and community, are experiencing this collective state of being, one which is largely fraught with anxiety and fear of the unknown,” Stinman said. “Spring is supposed to be a time of light and renewal, so I wanted to share a way to bring some color, joy and happiness to as many people as possible ... and bring people together when we are encouraged to remain apart.”
Stinman, who has a 9-month-old son, Garrett, said she also just wanted to keep the spirit of Easter egg hunts alive since they’re a huge part of the Easter tradition.
The Great Omaha Easter Egg Hunt Facebook page went live March 26. As of Wednesday, it had grown to more than 8,000 members, with more than 1,000 addresses submitted.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled with how this event and group has played out,” Stinman said. “Obviously, as the group has grown quite rapidly, it’s challenging to ensure that I see everything, but our members have done a great job of helping each other and answering questions.”
Those without Facebook still can participate by emailing a complete physical address to email@example.com. Stinman will reply with a link to a folder containing egg templates, as well as the Egg Hunt Google Map.
Many local families are excited to participate in the Easter egg hunt.
Jessica Dunning, who is missing Easter with her parents, sisters and young nephews, loves the idea of the egg hunt.
“This is a great way to bring us together in our cars and still celebrate the holiday,” she said. “It’s also a great way to get out of the house and see the community come together.”
Autumn Stock said she plans to participate with her sister, sister-in-law and daughter, and “looks forward to seeing families drive by looking for our eggs.”
“I am absolutely thrilled to see the Omaha Community coming together to develop creative solutions such as this,” she said.
For Marisa Lopez, the egg hunt is an opportunity to share time with one another and spread positivity with neighbors.
“It’s a scary time right now, and unfortunately it’s negatively affecting the mental health of so many,” Lopez said. “Seeing eggs pop up in windows around our neighborhood has given us a sense of community during this time of uncertainty.Between the different egg designs, the ability to create your own and seeing others do the same, it’s hard to compare it to any other community activity,” she said.
Stinman said she is encouraging people to stay in their vehicles to hunt the eggs. Any neighborhood walk should be done “at your own discretion” while maintaining a minimum of 6 feet between you and others.
“If you or a family member are experiencing symptoms such as a fever, coughing or sneezing, please stay home,” she said.
Overall, Stinman said, she just hopes the Great Omaha Easter Egg Hunt is a chance to bring families together. She knows things are hard with the stress of homeschooling and canceled activities and events.
“I hope it inspires creativity in kids and adults alike. I hope it provides a moment of quiet contemplation and relaxation. I hope it gives families something to do, both in creating and hunting the eggs,” she said. “I hope that it creates a fun, bright memory in a time that feels dark.”