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Free Easter egg hunt at Northgate Park
Katie Rhodes reaches for more candy to fill plastic eggs as volunteers Friday helped prepare for today’s Manteca Kiwanis free community Easter egg hunt at Northgate Park starting at 11 a.m. sharp. - photo by HIME ROMERO
David Mueller remembers exactly what it was like when the Manteca Kiwanis clubs had to spend hours upon hours hard-boiling and then dying eggs for their annual community Easter Egg Hunt.

Such is life when you’ve spent 41 years as part of an organization that has turned a simple tradition into one of the biggest gatherings of children that the community sees all year. It is a chance for grandparents, parents and children to all celebrate the holiday in the spirit of togetherness.

And on Friday morning, Mueller was busy plugging away at Prestige Senior Living to make sure that the 10,000 candy-filled plastic eggs that will be placed at Northgate Park this morning are ready to go.

“It’s a good opportunity for the Kiwanis to get our name out in front of the community and to let people that we’re here to help people,” Mueller said. “It’s also a great chance for families to come together and enjoy time in a true community setting.

“It’s just so great to see the smiling faces as the dash out onto the field and gather up as many eggs as they can. That makes it all worthwhile.”

More than two dozen volunteers gathered at Prestige Senior Living Friday morning to help piece together the eggs that will be placed out at Northgate this morning starting at 9 a.m. The official rush for the treats will begin promptly at 11 a.m., and organizers suggest not being even 30 seconds late – almost all of the eggs disappear within the first minute.

And according to Kiwanis event chairman George Montross, the tradition of giving away bicycles to lucky winners – one small, one medium and one large bike – will continue this year. The group will also give away 25 fully-stocked Easter baskets.

“In all, it costs us about $1,000 to put this together,” said the three-year Kiwanis member. “We are very grateful to our sponsors like Casino Real, Union Bank of Stockton, Food 4 Less, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Wal-Mart for their donations and making this event possible this year. It’s a great time for families, and it’s an event that truly brings the community together.”

While his fellow classmates were at home sleeping in during their four-day weekend, East Union freshman and Kiwins Club member Matthew Abrey was up bright and early to help stuff the eggs as part of the community service the club performs every year.

It’s a chance, Abrey says, to get involved in the community.

“This is something that helps the community, and it’s about giving back to a community that has given to me,” he said. “There’s a sense of pride that goes with knowing that you’re helping out with event like this. It’s rewarding to know that I’m helping with this.”