By Vinny Mutone
A scavenger hunt started in a Facebook group on March 18th, 2020, is aiming to give families a bonding activity to do together during social distancing, a new regulation brought on to avoid the spread of the novel COVID-19 virus.
Katherine Schilling, Nicole Sapienza and Danielle Arcuri have started encouraging their Facebook followers to join Rainbows over Nassau and Suffolk and Beyond, their Facebook group, draw and paint rainbows to hang them in their windows or on their homes, and then go out on a rainbow scavenger hunt to see who else in the community is taking part.
“When we first talked about it, my words were, ‘let’s make a small local page to keep the rainbows together’,” Katherine Schilling, one of the page’s creators, said. “We had so much feedback in the first 24 hours that we changed the group (name) to add ‘and beyond’ to the name . I’m still in shock as the numbers grow daily….this page could not be what it is without all of the group members which is now over 34,000 strong and it hasn’t been a week yet,”
The group’s goal is to alleviate some of the frustration, sadness, and loneliness that people have been experiencing due to these isolation brought on by the Coronavirus.
“I have had messages from essential employees saying how seeing these rainbows to and from work puts a smile on their faces and makes the start and end of their workdays a little better,” Schilling said.
Dr. Jack McGarry, a retired clinical psychologist, suggests the importance of relaxation in a stressful time like this can not be overstated.
“Although certainly not a panacea and despite its simplicity, the (rainbow) project incorporates a number of elements that are psychologically beneficial for those challenged by the unique stress presented by the Coronavirus,” Dr. Jack McGarry said. “It gives the family a sense of connectedness and support through a constructive joint activity with all the benefits of positive, lighthearted affiliation; along with distraction from the serious threat at hand,” McGarry said. “Beyond each separate family unit, it provides a sense of community solidarity and support. A safe way to come together and reduce the sense of isolation.”
Nicole Sapienza, one of the admins and co-creators of the Facebook group, is consistently adding new rainbow creations to her home. The Sapienza also goes on rainbow scavenger hunts together. “We have painted and colored many rainbows, as well as had a rainbow balloon made which was the first post on the page. We’ve gone for a few hunts around the neighborhood and have seen many more pop up,” Sapienza said.
For those who may be cautious of leaving the house during the quarantine, have no fear, the rainbow scavenger hunt is still for you! “It’s ok to go on a short walk with the few family members that you have already been self quarantining with. It’s important to stay near home, and far away from other people that may also be on a walk,” Pamela Grillo, a PA-C who currently works at a pulmonary medicine and sleep disorders private practice on Long Island, said. Ms. Grillo still emphasizes health over everything, “Of course, it is best to stay home and limit any type of exposure, but a brief walk with the few individuals who you’ve been quarantining with for the past few weeks should be a safe way to get some fresh air and continue practicing social distancing.”
If you are not sure where to go to look for rainbows, the Rainbows over Nassau and Suffolk and Beyond page has files for each town, where people can list their streets for others to look for rainbows.
“It’s something to look forward to, it gives you a good feeling inside, and it’s definitely a positive message to put out there,” Stephanie Gregoretti, a mother of 2 from Levittown, NY, one of the many parents taking part in the rainbow activities with their children. “It makes myself, my husband, and my children happy.”
One of Stephanie’s children, Anthony, has a rare immune disease, so they experience isolation and self-distancing multiple times a year. At a time when a very dangerous virus is going around, the Gregoretti family is grateful there is still a way for them to be part of their community.