The Easter bunny visited the AERO students of PRIDE Alternative School in Oak Lawn, IL on March 28 to deliver special baskets. AERO is a special education school comprised of various districts serving children with behavioral needs. Tuthill Corporation created baskets for both the students and teachers and brought the Easter bunny and her helpers to the school to read, dance and participate in an Easter egg hunt.
The Easter bunny was played by Tuthill's Kathy Dziabala. Her Easter bunny helpers from Tuthill also visited the school: Annette Cox, Rose Meade, Eric Engstrom, Danton Jany, Angelina Castro and Erica Magda.
"Special education is very dear to me because I have two boys on the autism spectrum and I can imagine what these teachers go through each day," Kathy said. "I can never thank them enough for what they do. So much patience, selflessness and love."
Earlier that week, Tuthill employees in the Burr Ridge office filled the Easter baskets with coloring books, stuffed animals and toys. They also created special gifts for each of the nine teachers at the school. Kathy along with others at the Burr Ridge office had the idea for creating this event because as a parent, she wanted to thank the teachers for the often challenging work they put in daily with all of the children.
The Tuthill also donated a gift card for two classrooms to attend the field trip to the Oak Lawn Children’s Museum.
The school visit was a surprise for the students. As the costumed bunny poked its head through the doorway, the students quietly gathered around.
“We have a special visitor today,” Sarah Kisala, an AERO teacher announced to her classroom as the bunny entered.
One young girl gasped, grabbing her face, nearly in tears out of excitement.
"The Easter bunny!" she exclaimed! The children each approached the bunny for a hug and a photo, some more cautiously than others as they still had not determined if this bunny was the real deal.
"There was nothing better than to see the faces of children light up with happiness. This is an experience I will treasure," Annette said.
Kathy, the Easter bunny, squealed with delight in a high-pitched voice, dolling out hugs and high fives to the students. Speaking in her own bunny language, she paid extra special attention to the reluctant students who eventually came around.
"I love you, Easter bunny!" exclaimed one child who was initially very skeptical of the bunny. He ran to give Kathy a hug before she left, still in costume.
"I really enjoyed seeing the excitement on the kids' faces as the Easter bunny walked into the classrooms. A few of them had their guard up at first, but eventually came around, which was very heart-warming to see," Eric said.
“You could see how the Easter Bunny touched them,” Rose added.
The teachers were very grateful for being thought of as well.
"We have never been on the receiving end of such a generous gift," said Sarah Kisala, AERO Special Education Cooperative teacher. "It was also amazing to see my assistants be on the receiving end of this as well. Their spirits were all uplifted to be remembered for all of their daily kindness and hard work in the classroom. Thank you so much for taking the time to plan this for us you are beautiful souls. We are thankful for all you do."
While the event was centered around giving, the Tuthill volunteers learned lessons as well.
"Inspiring them to come out of there comfort zone is pretty cool," Danton said. "Doing it with people with disabilities can be challenging, but the payout is even greater. It inspired me to come out of mine."
Angelina said her heart was warmed by the event. "We may have brightened up their day but they made me feel alive."