Easter Bunny and Sparky return for annual Easter Run

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

The kids of Tulalip could not contain their excitement on the afternoon of Saturday, March 30. Many were literally jumping with joy when they spotted two life size characters strolling down their street. And though some of the kiddos were initially terrified, a few of them put on their brave faces and overcame their fear once they were gifted candy and toys from Sparky the Fire Dog and the Easter Bunny. 

A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, a local nonprofit known as Together We’re Better organized the first Easter Run for the community of Tulalip in 2021. The event was an instant success and helped raise the spirits of the entire reservation. With gathering restrictions in place, With gathering restrictions in place, and while many folks were practicing social distancing, the Easter Run brought back a sense of normalcy to the community.

At the time, Together We’re Better Founder, Malory Simpson, shared, “It was important for us to do an event. Normally, we do a huge egg hunt and multiple communities come out to celebrate, but COVID has interfered with a lot of events this year. Together We’re Better is community-driven and 100% community funded, so seeing the kids cooped up and not having anything really planned for them, we wanted to do something for them and bring Easter to the community.”

Malory drew inspiration from the Tulalip Bay Fire Department’s yearly Santa Run, in which the Fire squad escorts Santa Claus throughout Tulalip neighborhoods while collecting donations for the Tulalip Church of God Food Bank. When Malory reached out to the fire station, a partnership was quickly forged between Together We’re Better and the Tulalip Bay Fire Department. Their firehouse dalmatian mascot, Sparky, also wanted in on the fun and volunteered to distribute candy alongside the Easter Bunny. 

“When you see the kid’s faces light up, and their smiles are so big, ear to ear, when they see Easter Bunny and Sparky from across the road, it’s just the best,” expressed TBFD Captain John Carlson. “The interactions are always great; they all mean a lot to us. To make their day makes my day, because we see people on some of their worst days. I view the fire services as a family and the Tulalip community is a huge part of our family too. It’s so great to work together and make each other’s day better, it means a lot to us. It’s why we’re here.”

In addition to Sparky and the fire crew, two other local groups volunteer their time to hand out candy each year and are essential to the Easter Run – Aunties in Action and the Redrum First Nations Motorcycle Club. Every Easter Run, there are about 20 volunteers who walk numerous miles throughout the day to deliver treats and smiles to the homes of Tulalip children and their families. 

The Easter Run was such a big hit within the community that Together We’re Better decided to make it an annual occasion. Now, it is something that many kids look forward to each spring. Kids are on the lookout, peering out their windows, and as soon as they catch a glimpse of the dynamic duo, they are outside waiting to greet them.The kids shower the bunny and fire dog with hugs and high fives, and graciously accept their gifts of sugar and plastic novelties. The parents are equally as excited as the youngins, and they are sure to have their camera apps open and ready to snap a shot of their babies with the two loveable characters. 

Said Malory, “Giving back to the community always feels really good. This is all community effort; it makes my heart happy to see the community coming together to take care of each other. I just love it. The smiles and laughter make you feel really good inside. Just seeing the kids get excited is one of the best things about the event. It’s pretty fun to see all of their reactions and see how happy the kids are to spend some time with the Easter Bunny and Sparky.”

This year, the Tulalip Bay Fire Department expanded its district to include homes located in the Quil Ceda Creek neighborhood developments. As the Easter Run mirrors the fire department’s service area, this meant that the Easter Bunny and Sparky would see some new faces this year. And that they did. With the addition of three neighborhoods, Sparky and the bunny made dozens of new friends of all ages, from newborns to elders, as they spent a generous portion of their day getting to know the kids and families on the Quil. 

In total, the Easter Bunny and Sparky visited 10 neighborhoods on the reservation, walked over 14,000 steps (≈ 7 miles), and brought smiles to over 100 kids during the 2024 Easter Run. 

Natosha Gobin, the 2024 Easter Run event planner, stated, “The Together We’re Better events are so much fun to participate in because it is community driven. For the Easter Run, a lot of community members look forward to stuffing eggs, buying snacks, and doing whatever they can to help. It’s nice to take time and visit with the families and go to all the different developments. This year, we were excited to add the Quil developments as well. It feels so good to be with the community for a positive reason. And to see how much this means to the family as a whole – it just feels really good to be a part of something that is putting smiles on their faces.”

If you are looking to get more involved with the community, Together We’re Better is always accepting donations, whether that is goods, funds, or your personal volunteered time. For more information, please contact Natosha Gobin at (425) 319-4416 or Malory Simpson at (425) 905-9137.