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Thousands hunt leprechauns in support of SHARE Foundation

Leprechaun first Guests make a dash as Father Dennis Blaney uses a horn to signal the start of the 25th annual Share Foundation Leprechaun Hunt in Rolling Prairie on Aug. 4. Around 10,000 people attended the fundraising event in which guests search the 185-acre property for hidden leprechauns, each with a monetary prize value. Money raised from the event helps support Sharing Meadows, a community for other-abled adults. (Bob Wellinski photo)

 

by Bob Wellinski

Northwest Indiana Catholic correspondent

 

ROLLING PRAIRIE — Happiness, joy and contentment.

That’s how Father Dennis Blaney described the mood of the roughly 10,000 people who descended upon Sharing Meadows for the 25th annual Leprechaun Hunt on Aug. 4.

Decked out in his large emerald green leprechaun hat and a shirt with a large leprechaun character printed on the front with words, “World’s Largest Leprechaun,” Father Blaney blew his horn to officially begin the hunt.

The Leprechaun Hunt is the SHARE Foundation and Sharing Meadows’ annual fundraiser with plenty of food, Irish music and dance, hay-wagon rides, children’s inflatable playhouses, magic by Matt Kalita and of course, the hunt for 33 well-hidden leprechaun statues, each with a prize value ranging from $50-$1,500.

The seed for the SHARE Foundation was planted back in the 1970s while Fr. Blaney was in charge of the Apostolate for the Handicapped, working with people with disabilities and their families. Father Blaney saw something special – a special happiness, love and compassion- in the people he served. He envisioned a community – Sharing Meadows – where they could live semi-independently with dignity and contribute to the community.

Sharing Meadows community comprises 15 homes. Each home has 2 residents (ranging in age from 25-65) and a house manager. Residents help maintain the 185 acres located in northeastern LaPorte County, near Rolling Prairie.

Father Blaney said, “Villagers grow because we have a lot of things for them to do out here- to develop their own personality.” Residents mow, garden and make crafts in the woodshop or ceramics room; they can use one of six looms and transform used bottles into beautifully decorated lamps. On sale at the Leprechaun Hunt are items made by the villagers including walking sticks and their famous zucchini/walnut bread made from homegrown zucchini and walnuts harvested from the over 1,000 walnut trees planted on the property.

Bill Harmon, the foundation’s executive director said, “What started as a dream has turned into a reality and has changed lives of many people. I thought I came here to change their (the villagers) lives, but they changed mine. They are so caring and self-giving. That’s why the Leprechaun Hunt is so important, because it brings more people into our family. This is a family unit and the fact that other people get to share in it you can just feel the love throughout the property.”

Some have described Sharing Meadows and the Leprechaun Hunt as the closest to heaven here on earth. While there are newcomers every year, there are many families who have been coming since the first hunt 25 years ago.

Nicole Moseley and her family expressed gratitude toward the SHARE Foundation.  It’s “extremely important to come out and support villagers. We had an uncle who stayed in the village when it first started; that’s why we became involved. It gave him independence something that he was told he would never have…and the SHARE Foundation makes that possible.”

Jo Vitallo and her family, from North Judson, support the villagers by attending the “awesome and family friendly” event.

Vitallo was moved by the villagers’ “unconditional love for others and appreciation for life and other people.

“This is living proof that we should never think any life is disposable,” she said. “They’re wonderful people doing wonderful things.”

Marcia Forcey, of Westville, and her “Chuck Shuckers” team, including Michael Barry, have been cooking sweet corn for the hunt the past 25 years. This year’s crew made 4,000 ears of corn. She said it’s been a blessing for her and all the other volunteers.

Father Blaney, who recently celebrated the 61st anniversary of his ordination, said the 200 volunteers are vital to the success of the hunt.

“This organization (SHARE Foundation) and this community renews your faith in humanity, and you focus on what’s really important and giving back. We love doing this every year. It’s a lot of work, but it brings joy and so many happy memories,” he said.

As for the hidden leprechauns, 26 out of the 33 were found.

For many, it was the proverbial “finding the needle in the haystack” as they searched high and low, in weeds and brush on the 185 rolling acre property in hopes of finding a leprechaun.

But for 12-year-old Calli Moseley, of Portage, she might have had a little luck of the Irish with her.  Not only was she one of 26 people to find a leprechaun, she found the $1,500 leprechaun.

She said she was shocked when she found the 8-inch tall leprechaun under a pile of sticks about 18 minutes into the hunt. “At first, I thought it was a soda can, but then I look a little more and it was a leprechaun,” a surprised and excited Calli explained.

When asked what she was going to do with her windfall she said, “My sister means a lot to me, so I gave her a hundred bucks.”

 

Leprechaun two two

A father and daughter search a  densely wooded area for 1 of 33 hidden leprechauns during the 25th annual Share Foundation Leprechaun Hunt in Rolling Prairie on Aug. 4. Around 10,000 people attended the fundraising event in which guests search the 185-acre property for hidden leprechauns, each with a monetary prize value. Money raised from the event helps support Sharing Meadows, a community for other-abled adults. (Bob Wellinski photo)

 

Leprechaun three

Guests dance to one of the bands performing during the 25th annual Share Foundation Leprechaun Hunt in Rolling Prairie on Aug. 4. Around 10,000 people attended the fundraising event in which guests search the 185-acre property for hidden leprechauns, each with a monetary prize value. Money raised from the event helps support Sharing Meadows, a community for other-able adults. (Bob Wellinksi photo)

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