Raul Alvarado-Lopez, 13, smiled as he sat on the Easter Bunny's lap, but when the life-size rabbit gave him a remote-controlled car, a bigger grin raced ear to ear.
"It's been weeks and weeks we've been hearing about the visit," said his teacher, David Lowe. "'When is the bunny coming? When is the bunny coming?'"
Raul is one of nine severely and profoundly disabled students in Lowe's class. Raul's remote-control car soon joined several others zipping around the floor Monday afternoon at Fremont Elementary School.
The Easter Bunny appears annually at Fremont and Seeliger elementary schools courtesy of the Telephone Pioneers. About 60 people are in the group of retired communications volunteers, who host a Christmas and Easter parties at the schools.
"It's so much fun for us and the kids," said Lee Radtke, who oversees the visits. "This is the sixth year doing this party and the Christmas party for the special-education kids."
After leaving Fremont, special-ed students continue through similar classroom settings at the middle school and high school.
"The kids get to stay in special-ed until their 22nd birthday," Lowe said. "There's no real rush to get them through (at this level) since it's a nice, supportive environment."
Lowe has three aides assisting in his classroom.
"Everything that happens is because of them," said Lowe, who's taught at Fremont for nine years. "They make it happen."
Eleven-year-old Maria Gonzalez hugged many of the Pioneer Volunteers. Maria, who had received a pink stuffed unicorn and a Barbie in a purple outfit, looked over at volunteer Cliff Weaver, who wore bunny ears. She put her fingers above her head and made her own.
Both she and Weaver laughed.
"Of all the things we do, this is probably my favorite every year - this and the Christmas party," Weaver said. "To see the smiles and the joy these kids get - it's got to be the high point of their day. It makes my day."
"And you've got to remember, to these kids, the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus are real," said Pioneer Volunteer Don Rose.
Before the bunny turned for the classroom door, he wished the children a happy Easter.
"I'll see you Sunday," he promised.
Jacob Kingsley, 13, dropped what he was doing and ran up for a long hug.
"All day, he's been saying, 'Who's coming, who's coming, who's coming?'" said his aide, Tami Stears.
• Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at
email@example.com or 881-1219.
You can help
To join the Pioneer Volunteers
• Call Lee Radtke at 885-8166
• Other projects include hug-a-bear, hospital pillows and food-for-homeless children