Egg hunt done Wright

April 9, 2019 GMT

LYNDON – No one can say Kodi Wright doesn’t like a challenge.

She and her husband, John, will roughly sextuple the population of the village when they attract an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 eager Easter egg hunters and their families to their annual event in Richmond Park on April 20.

Kodi isn’t making it easy on herself.

Last year, she was injured. This year, she decided to top that challenge by having a baby a week before the big event.

“Yeah, we didn’t plan that very well. I was due (April) 4, and now I’m overdue,” Kodi said Monday, a day before doctors were going to induce labor. “And last year I broke both arms.”

What began 12 years ago as a simple family gathering to celebrate birthdays and other occasions in one event now has grown into a massive undertaking involving stuffing and hiding 30,000 eggs and giving away nearly 400 bicycles.

“We started this in our backyard probably 12 years ago, just for family and friends,” Kodi said. “We would take our taxes and spend about $500 for our family. We have a big extended family and can’t afford to buy for everybody’s birthday and such, so that took the place of presents throughout the year.”

The Wrights would go all out, renting a bouncy house and having a cookout along with an Easter egg hunt and other activities.

In a small town like Lyndon, in a house right along a major highway, that kind of a party tends to stand out – who doesn’t want to jump around in a bouncy house?

“I guess it was about 5 or 6 years in and people saw it driving and pulled off the road and asked if they could join in,” Kodi said. “We never said no to complete strangers, and before you know it, I had 80 people at my house and only one bathroom.”

That’s when she and John knew they needed help, in a lot of different ways. They went to the Village Board and asked to move the hunt to Richmond Park and make it a public event.

They also recruited volunteers – family, friends and anyone else willing to lend a hand. They needed them: The hunt was growing by leaps and bounds as word spread everywhere.

“The first year it was public was in 2014, and we had about 300 people,” Kodi said. “We’ve come a long way and are expecting 3,000 to 4,000 this year.”

It’s easy to see why the egg hunt is so popular. For one thing, it’s completely free.

They also give away bicycles, tricycles and small toys, and there is no age limit for children to participate.

In 2014, 17 bikes found new homes; the next year they gave away 70.

This year, the plan is to give away 400 bikes, for a few reasons.

“For one thing, it would put 400 smiles on 400 kids’ faces,” Kodi said. “But my husband said if we get 400 bikes this year, he will let me shave his beard off.

“Actually, he’s all for it and been pushing for it, too.”

The village also goes all in for the event, because it’s such a wonderful opportunity for kids of all ages to come together and celebrate the spirit of the day.

It takes the entire village to put this on, Kodi said. Volunteers help with all aspects of the day, the fire department cooks all the hot dogs, the Village Board pays for the chips and drinks.

They expect to provide about 1,500 meals this year.

Prophetstown firefighters also pitch in, acting as “field guards” to keep eager kids from rushing out too early to grab the plastic eggs that will be scattered across six fields in Richmond Park.

One of those fields is reserved for kids with special needs. The Wrights have two kids with autism, and they know a huge crowd like this can be overwhelming for them.

More volunteers always are needed – after all, 30,000 eggs won’t stuff themselves.

The group assembling the goodies will gather at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Conoco station to get that job done.

Anyone who wants to help, either with filling eggs or on hunt day, can contact the Wrights through their Facebook page, Wright Family Easter Egg Hunt.

Kodi will be happy to finally get all of that candy out of her house – she buys it all year to stock up for the big event.

“I’ve got 600 to 700 pounds of candy in my living room. You can get diabetes just smelling it,” she said.

While she and John do a lot of the work organizing the event, the hunt wouldn’t happen if not for the generosity of all the donors who dig deep to pay for the prizes inside the eggs and all the bikes.

“The bikes alone are $10,000, and we have them stored all over town,” Kodi said.

Donations are taken at the event for next year’s hunt, and those attending have been extremely generous, she said.

It doesn’t take much to see this a celebration worth giving a few bucks to.

Although their main motivation is the smiles it puts on thousands of kids’ faces, the Wrights also realize that this has come to be a really big deal for the village. Last year’s drew people from 56 different cities in three states, Kodi said.

“We’re a small town, so hopefully something like this helps put us back on the map.”