It was a bright, crispy, cold Sunday afternoon in Tucker as parents, grandparents, and kids gathered around the playground in Henderson Park, awaiting their instructions.
You could feel the anticipation in the air. After receiving their clues and maps, it was READY, SET, GO for these 80 participants in the Great Henderson Hunt - Henderson Park's 1st Annual Treasure Hunt.
Twenty-five teams raced to the finish line to win prizes donated by local Tucker businesses. Local 7 donated three $50 gift certificates, Stars and Strikes donated a family fun pack worth $60 plus two $25 game cards. Movie Tavern donated two movie passes, Mellow Mushroom donated three $10 gift certificates, and Monkey Joe’s donated four passes worth $10 each.
“It was a huge team effort to make this happen,” said Susan Farrar, Lead Coordinator for Friends of Henderson Park. “As soon as we formed the group, organizing a treasure hunt was one of the first things I thought we should do.”
A dozen different members of the Friends of Henderson Park group worked on various needs; from researching native wildlife to make the clues, to designing marketing materials, it took weeks to organize.
Within 28 minutes, Tom Simon and his daughter Giana ran up to the finish line all out of breath with big smiles on their faces when they realized they were the first team to arrive. “We live right by Henderson Park,” Simon explained. “We’re here three or four times a month, and we learned a new trail loop today. One we’d never been on.”
Four minutes later, coming in at 32 minutes, was Team Funny Hats who brought their two dogs on the race through Henderson Park.
John Stembel and his two daughters Stahr, 11, and 9-year-old Natalie “ran, jogged, walked and tripped” their way through the park, they said with a laugh and a smile.
Thirty-one clues were laid out all around the park on three different trail loops. Each treasure clue consisted of a small photograph of various wildlife species found in Henderson Park, including the Belted Kingfisher, the Pileated Woodpecker, the Red-shouldered Hawk, the Eastern Screech Owl, and the Great Blue Heron.
The Stembel family plans to share their wildlife cards with their neighbor who’s a trained birder so they can learn more about each animal. When asked what she learned today, Natalie replied “I learned I can run out of breath” with a deep expressive sigh.
Rounding out 3rd place out of twenty-five was Team Cache Hunters, who are used to this type of hunting and gathering for clues.
Penny Bellinger and Robin Hancock are veteran “Geo Cache” hunters. Considered High Tech treasure hunting, geo-cachers use hand held GSP units to search for caches hidden all over the globe. Together with Hancock’s son Sam Saye and their 12-year-old dog Ginger, they arrived back to home base in just under 36 minutes.
Bellinger originally discovered Henderson Park 11 years ago via geo caching, as Henderson Park is a prime geo caching destination. “We hike a lot together,” Bellinger said. “We were here a month or so ago searching for a cache. We’d do the Henderson Hunt again for sure,” said Hancock. “It was a great time.”
When asked about their grand prize winnings, a number of the kids were excited to experience Stars and Strikes on Mountain Industrial Boulevard and eat pizza at Mellow Mushroom.
“We’ve never been to Stars and Strikes,” said John Stembel. “We’re looking forward to it.”
At the end of the day there were lots of tired feet and cold hands, but more smiles and story-telling of who found what and where.
“We had no idea what to expect in terms of turnout; we planned the event to raise more fun than funds,” organizer Susan Farrar said. “Making a profit was a nice surprise. As for what to do with the money, there are some obvious needs in Henderson Park, the broken dock, for example, and now we have a little money to apply and some new friends to help,” Farrar added.
For information on the Friends of Henderson Park, click here.
Tucker’s new Parks initiative through Park Pride and DeKalb County has been very beneficial to our local parks and green space. Friends of Henderson Park is one of five new groups established to help support our local parks. Friends of Kelley Cofer Park, Friends of Montreal Park, Friends of Johns Homestead, and Friends of Tucker Nature Preserve have also been established, and each group organizes different events, fundraisers, and clean-ups for their specific park. An umbrella Friends of Tucker Parks group also helps organize events and spreads the word to the community. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or check this out to learn more about the Friends of Parks initiative.