Holiday Scavenger Hunt & Toy Drive Dec. 15

This group of Branford High School 2012 graduates includes (from left) buddies David Fisher, Mac Brosnan, Alex Altermatt, Jarrett Levesh, Austin Connell, Mark Williams, Nate Morrison, and Sam Latham, who, with friends Joey Johnson and Omar Hotak (not pictured), are organizing a Holiday Scavenger Hunt and Toy Drive on the Branford Green this Saturday, Dec. 15.
This group of Branford High School 2012 graduates includes (from left) buddies David Fisher, Mac Brosnan, Alex Altermatt, Jarrett Levesh, Austin Connell, Mark Williams, Nate Morrison, and Sam Latham, who, with friends Joey Johnson and Omar Hotak (not pictured), are organizing a Holiday Scavenger Hunt and Toy Drive on the Branford Green this Saturday, Dec. 15. Photo courtesy of Jarrett Levesh

It's not your grandfather's scavenger hunt.

Organized exclusively through social media by a group of Branford High School (BHS) Class of 2012 buddies who wanted to do something to give back to their community, the Fortunate People Giving Gifts (FPGG) Holiday Scavenger Hunt & Toy Drive rolls out from the Branford Green this Saturday, Dec. 15.

The hunt starts at 1 p.m. (walk-up registration begins at 11 a.m.). The idea is simple: team members sign up by bringing a new, unwrapped toy, then get in the hunt devised by the guys. Every toy will be donated to the Branford Counseling Center (BCC) holiday gift giving program for Branford families in need.

"You can either come and check in or, if you're not participating, just drop off a toy for the toy drive," said Jarrett Levesh, one of the organizers.

The group is also helping to promote another BCC toy-drive event on Tuesday, Dec. 18, when BHS senior Andrew Klarman will be collecting donated toys during the BHS Varsity basketball game (7 p.m. at the high school).

"That's another good way to give toys," said Levesh.

Levesh and friends set up the FPGG Holiday Scavenger Hunt and Toy Drive on Facebook about three weeks ago. He said the online response has been great, especially from high school kids and college friends.

"So far we have that Facebook group and we do have 90 people who say they're going. We're hoping for a pretty big crowd-the more, the merrier. We're hoping for teams of four and everyone on the team gives one new, unwrapped toy."

Individuals and teams of fewer than four (or more) are also welcome to join in. All ages are welcome, too.

"We're not looking to leave anyone out," Levesh said.

Levesh and friends Nate Morrison, Sam Latham, Alex Altermatt, David Fisher, Joey Johnson, Omar Hotak, Mark Williams, Austin Connell and Mac Brosnan, all 2012 BHS graduates, have coalesced into the hunt's organizers and promoters.

"It's kind of a funny story. We have a group iPhone message and we kind of text every day because we don't see each other; we're all at college," said Levesh, a freshman at Juniata College in Huntington, Pennsylvania.

Dave Fisher got the ball rolling by sending out a text about "doing something good for community," Levesh said, adding, "We wanted to do something different."

Home for Thanksgiving break, the friends organized one of their famous scavenger hunts for themselves and some friends. It wasn't long before for the idea for the first-ever FPGG Scavenger Hunt and Toy Drive hit.

"We thought we could incorporate a scavenger hunt into a toy drive and it worked out from there," said Levesh. "It was very spontaneous, for sure. We kept throwing ideas out until we perfected it."

Levesh also wanted to make sure the idea wouldn't fall through the cracks.

"Kids our age, we say a lot of things that never really happen. I kind of decided I was going to do whatever it took to get it done, and my friends were really all gung-ho with me. It feels awesome to give back, so anything we need to do, we'll do."

The idea has grown and support has been building, including that of the Board of Selectman, which approved the Green for use for the hunt/toy drive, support from BCC, and local media and businesses. Through the Branford Seven, the group received four $25 gift certificates to Tacuba, at this point the top prize for the winning team. (Other businesses have been contacted for contributions; those interested in contributing team prizes can get on board by in-boxing Levesh at the group Facebook page).

"The word is getting it out there and it's getting bigger than I thought it would be. We're extremely excited about it. It's something look forward to come home to," said Levesh.

As for what participants can look forward to, expect "a compilation of not only finding things, but also tasks," Levesh explained.

"At past scavenger hunts, we've had people take a picture with a Branford fireman, or singing a carol with a stranger-fun little things like that. So bring a camera or camera phone because there could be a lot of picture evidence. We're making the list as long as possible and we're going to keep people busy because we do have prizes for the winners."

Families with younger kids will find most of the items near the Green, but having transportation could help turn a team into the winning team, he hinted. The bigger prize is simply getting people out to participate while pumping up the annual toy drive collection for BCC.

"We'd love to get some high school students, adults, kids?all ages. We'll have a table on the Green and all the guys will be there to collect toys and sign people in and judge people when they get back. It's gotten a lot bigger than we thought, but we love it. We're surprised, but we couldn't have asked for anything more," said Levesh.

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