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LIers keep kids hopping with Easter egg hunts and more

Jennie Reilly (in costume) with her mother, Charlene

Jennie Reilly (in costume) with her mother, Charlene Lanigan, and Reilly's children, Kaitlyn and Skylar celebrate Easter with their neighbors in East Islip. Credit: Charlene Lanigan

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Long Islanders are hopping to the occasion and finding ways to celebrate Easter from a safe, social distance.

This year, for the annual AmVets Post 18 Easter party in East Islip, Charlene Lanigan was supposed to slip into a big bunny costume.

The party was canceled, but the costume remained in Lanigan’s home. She’s still unsure of her own plans for this Easter because her family cannot physically be together in the same house.

So in the absence of pastel-colored Easter eggs to hide around the neighborhood, she hatched another idea.

Lanigan took to a Facebook group for East Islip moms and asked what they thought about having a local Easter Bunny meet-and-greet.

“The responses I was getting made me think I was doing the right thing,” said Lanigan, who has been living in the community for 35 years.

With the help of her daughter, Jennie Reilly, they brought Easter to East Islip on Saturday. Reilly put on the costume and stood in the street and Lanigan, wearing rubber gloves, handed out candy to people passing by in cars.

Lanigan said she was impressed by her daughter’s portrayal of the beloved bunny. “She had more energy than I did, hopping from one car to the other,” she said with a laugh.

Reilly said the experience was “really fun,” albeit hot inside the costume.

“I was friends with the person who was the mascot for my university, and I was so close to reaching out and saying, ‘I don’t know how you did that!' ” Reilly said.

She added that before the event, she had heard rumblings from other parents who said their children were concerned the Easter Bunny had gotten the coronavirus and would be unable to deliver treats this year.

“This was our opportunity to do right thing with social distancing in mind, so if the Easter Bunny could stand outside and wave at cars driving by, the kids could see and be like, ‘Oh my gosh, he’s around!’ “

Reilly added, “The expressions on the kids’ faces were absolutely priceless.” She estimates that more than 100 cars came by, and Lanigan said she only recognized about “25% of the people coming through.”

“It was the East Islip moms, I guess,” Lanigan said. “Somebody would tell somebody else, and we just had people from all over.”

Reilly got her own teenage daughters into the spirit, too — her older daughter chatted with the kids who came by, while her younger daughter played Easter music while her mother danced in costume.

Although the family will not be together on Easter, they still live close enough to see each other from a safe distance. “My mom will stop by and stand in the driveway and talk to us,” Reilly said.

There are also no-contact Easter egg hunts happening around Long Island: one in Cold Spring Harbor and another in Farmingdale.

Jillian Friar, who makes chocolates and platters through her business Favors by Friar, wanted to find a way to give back to small businesses during this time while also keeping families entertained. She and her 11-year-old daughter, Emma, embark on plenty of scavenger hunts together, so she saw Easter as an opportunity to create one herself.

Friar got the idea from her husband’s best friend, who had organized an egg hunt around his Oyster Bay neighborhood. “I wanted to step it up a notch,” she said with a laugh.

With the help of some Farmingdale moms, Friar organized an Easter-themed scavenger hunt with clues in the windows of local businesses on Main Street, plus at the firehouse and an elementary school. The clues were typed out on eggs made of construction paper, which the moms had their children color and draw on. Friar and her friends then posted the eggs all over town.

Friar went on the scavenger hunt with her daughter, as well. “I hid them without her and then we went, and I didn’t say a word. She did it all herself!"

In Cold Spring Harbor, there’s an egg hunt that spans to Huntington and the Village of Northport. Ashley Allegra, director of marketing for Lucky to Live Here Realty in Cold Spring Harbor, organized this egg expedition with her company.

The eggs are hard to miss — they’re wooden, hand-painted and can be spotted while driving eastbound on Route 25A. They'll be around until April 19.

“We wanted to bring the community together while keeping a safe distance,” Allega said. More information, including a map of the egg hunt, can be found here.

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