The Easter Bunny found a unique way to deliver eggs this year, thanks to the help of a Shawnee church.
Rather than his hopping through a field to hide eggs, local egg-hunters found him flying to Shawnee on Saturday and dropping 10,000 eggs from above, with the aid of a helicopter. The aerial egg dispersal was part of GracePoint Church’s Helicopter Easter Egg Drop.
Several hundred egg-gatherers came to the event, which also included an area with six bounce houses for children, as well as other activities such as face-painting. GracePoint’s lead pastor, Dave Thornhill, said he got the idea from a friend at a church in Illinois and decided to borrow it for Shawnee.
It seemed like an easy option for the church, situated near Johnson County’s Mid-America West Sports Complex and Okun Fieldhouse. All Thornhill had to do was mention it to his congregation, and it took off from there.
“We have the space for it, and really everything’s been lining up real easy for us,” he said.
With the city of Shawnee canceling its egg hunt again this year from budget constraints, Thornhill said the church hoped to fill a void in the community.
“We do see a need for community events that are free,” he said. “We really want to be a community church.”
All of the materials necessary to put on the event were donated, so the church only had to provide about 50 volunteers to help organize and promote the event. In addition to donating eggs, candy and bounce houses, local businesses donated gift certificates or coupons to stuff in some eggs.
“When the community combines together, it’s real easy to pull something like this off,” Thornhill said.
“We haven’t had to lay out a penny for this; the community has responded overwhelmingly.”
Even arranging for a helicopter turned out to be a snap. After mentioning the event during church service, a member came forward with a contact for Timberview Helicopters, and the pilot had performed a similar type of helicopter drop for a church in Missouri in the past.
“It was actually one of the easiest parts to organize, and I thought it would be one of the hardest,” Thornhill said. “He had all the knowledge of how to pull this off, so that greased the wheels, so to speak.”
The field upon which the eggs were dropped was separated into areas for different age groups. The helicopter hovered around 40 feet for the egg dispersal, and egg hunters had to wait outside the field until the eggs landed. The plastic eggs were taped shut to help them survive the 40-foot fall.
The church advertised the event on Facebook, YouTube and in a few local newspapers, and volunteers even called about 1,500 households in the area to invite the community to the event.
The advertising certainly worked, as the baseball fields were full by the time the Easter Bunny dropped off his eggs, and they were gathered up very quickly.
“There were a few people that did not make it there in time, but we have saved some eggs back,” said Jessica Dupriest, office administrator for the church.
Dupriest said with the sunny weather, the day turned out perfectly, and the church is already thinking about doing it all again next Easter.
“We were exhilarated with excitement because we feel like we had about 3,000 people, and it was such a great community ministry,” she said. “Everybody had a great time — it was a great day, and I can’t be more exuberant about it.”