Inner Southeast is home to one of the most original Easter Egg hunts in the country -- it involves a helicopter

DAVID F. ASHTON - The crowd cheers as Hope City Church Pastor Brian Becker is pelted by hundreds of orange Easter Eggs dropped from a hovering helicopter over Brentwood Park. The local Hope City Church created the "Code Orange Egg Drop" six years ago, to help Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood kids feel appreciated and valued. This year, that event also raised funds to support the work of the neighborhood's association.

That's what Pastor Brian Becker of Hope City Church told THE BEE, at the April 8 egg drop, held again in Brentwood Park. (This year, it was arranged for a week before Easter weekend.)

"Kids here used to have to go to other neighborhoods to participate in an event like this; we wanted to give them their very own," Becker smiled. "And to make it great, we decided to get a helicopter and drop the plastic eggs from it."

"A 'Code Orange' event means it's really important – and this one is. More than 100 volunteers work to put on this on here, and hundreds of volunteer hours go into planning this event every year," Becker explained.

After family members registered and received their wristbands, kids were free to play carnival games and win treats, visit with the Easter Bunny, and participate in other activities.

A light rain began to fall; but families were ready for the weather; rain slickers and umbrellas popped up.

"The members of Hope City Church raise funds to pay for all of it, because we believe that Jesus came to love the people, and help them in areas where they needed help," Pastor Becker reflected. "We want to follow that example by finding areas of concern, and then help by loving our neighbors with no strings attached."

The church keeps adding to its trove of plastic eggs each year, Becker said, "and we lost count at 25,000 eggs; we think we may have as many as 30,000 of them."

It's not about how many eggs kids collect, he said. "Regardless of how many eggs the kids gather, whether they got one egg or fifty, each child exchanges his or her plastic eggs for a bag of prepackaged candies, to reduce the competitive nature of the event that one might otherwise see."

And, by having enough volunteers on hand – each one wearing a bright "Code Orange" shirt or jacket – the Code Orange morning continues to be safe and fun for families. But, they strictly limit the number of youth allowed to sign up to 1,000 kids.

"Our free reservations 'sell out' in about five hours, so there's enough demand to host four or five times the kids," Becker said, "But safety is our number one priority, and limiting the number helps."

This year, there was also a social media component. When Becker announced over the PA system that live video was being streamed from the helicopter as it took off in Hillsboro and was flying to the park, and all of that was being shown on the event's Facebook page, Smart Phones all over the park came out as people watched the helicopter's view of the city as it flew east.

At 11:00 a.m., as a preliminary to the main event, there was a special Easter egg dash for toddlers and their parents. Then, older kids were invited around a giant circle, staked out in three sections, in the center of the park where kids gathered into age groups.

"We've added a new neighborhood component," commented Becker. "Because we knew that the Brentwood Darlington Neighborhood Association was trying to figure out ways to raise funds for community projects, we came up with an idea. This year, we offered a limited number of 'early bird' registrations for those who wished to make a donation – one dollar, a hundred dollars, the amount was up to them."

That effort raised $1,000, all of which was given to the neighborhood association. Receiving the check was Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood Association (BDNA) Chair Lesley McKinley.

"Speaking for myself, because I am a neighbor as well as a member of the BDNA Board, this speaks to how we're building great connections here," McKinley said. "These people have worked really hard for Brentwood Darlington kids, and we're so grateful for that, and for the church's generosity."

BDNA will put some of the money into school programs, a neighborhood clean-up and other efforts, McKinley said.

Minutes before the helicopter arrived, the rain stopped and the clouds began clearing. By the time the chopper was overhead, the sun was shining, glinting off the whirling blades, and illuminating thousands of orange Easter eggs that floated down, welcomed by the cheering crowd.

Section by section, hundreds of laughing kids enjoyed being awash in plastic eggs and gathering them up. Then the helicopter turned in the air and headed back to Hillsboro.

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