'The tradition continues,' Thelma Harper's annual egg hunt continues after her passing

Thelma Harper's Egg Hunt 2022
Posted at 4:02 PM, Apr 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-17 12:58:50-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — For the last 37 years, the "Kids Are Special Too" Easter Egg Hunt in North Nashville has had a few signature staples — costumes, prizes and of course, a countdown to the start of the egg hunt that turns the event into more of a foot race.

But there was a beloved staple missing this year: the matriarch that always made it happen.

Longtime State Senator Thelma Harper passed away this time last year, and because of COVID-19, wasn't able to host the hunt the final two years of her life. Harper started the annual hunt back in the 1980s.

For years, local celebrities, including our own Lelan Statom, have taken turns serving as the Easter Bunny.

"I have cried all week," said Harper's daughter Linda. "My mother hadn't seen children, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers in 37 years."

But thanks to Linda, the tradition continues. "My one obligation was to continue this legacy because she loved it so much. She loved giving the kids gifts, she loved giving them hugs, candy," she said.

Although, it's been a bigger undertaking than she expected.

"And lord knows, I didn’t know she was doing this much work. They don’t make them like they used to," joked Linda.

Just finding any egg during the massive hunt is a feat in itself, but a golden egg is as good as a golden ticket to a stash of prizes that would make any kid smile.

"What? Oh my gosh, and you found the golden egg! Whoo hoo!" said one mother to her child.

It especially made this proud child of Thelma Harper smile, and in a special way, another key tradition also continued. A member of the Harper family wore an instantly recognizable hat. Linda, in honor of her mother, donned a tall top hat with Easter bunny ears sticking out.

"I thought I’d pay a little tribute to her in an indirect way," said Linda.

The egg hunt gave out more than 50 Easter baskets to children who could find the hidden golden eggs. It was the first year of the event after a two year hiatus due to COVID-19.