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Dublin family wins raffle to attend White House Easter Egg Roll

  • Brooks Johnson of Dublin and his 8-year-old son, Freeman Johnson, pose for a photo in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., during the family’s participation in the 135th White House Easter Egg Roll on April 1.

    Brooks Johnson of Dublin and his 8-year-old son, Freeman Johnson, pose for a photo in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., during the family’s participation in the 135th White House Easter Egg Roll on April 1.

  • Brooks Johnson of Dublin and his 8-year-old son, Freeman Johnson, pose for a photo in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., during the family’s participation in the 135th White House Easter Egg Roll on April 1.

When she saw the congratulatory email, Emily Johnson of Dublin was in disbelief. She and her family had been chosen to participate in the 135th White House Easter Egg Roll on April 1. But it had to be an April Fools prank, right?

Wrong, said Emily in an interview Tuesday at the Dublin School, where she works with her husband, Brooks Johnson. “It was no joke; we had really won,” she smiled.

In late February, Emily had filled out a simple online application to be entered into a raffle for a chance to take part in the annual Easter tradition at the White House. Emily, though, never imagined that her small Dublin family would win.

“Other families we know applied and didn’t get tickets,” Emily said. “We thought, ‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We have to go.’”

The couple, with their 8-year-old son, Freeman Johnson, took advantage of the opportunity, scheduling a two-day vacation so that they could experience the historic sites in Washington.

The Johnsons were three people out of more than 35,000 from throughout the country that attended the Easter Egg Roll, which included a wide-range of activities.

“The whole premise was fitness,” Brooks said, referring to the sports-based events and cooking demonstrations aimed at healthy living. The theme of this year’s Easter Egg Roll was closely tied to First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign — a mission in addressing the challenge of childhood obesity in America.

Members of the United States field hockey and soccer teams attended the Egg Roll, as well as players from the National Football League. Singer Jordin Sparks and the band, The Wanted, attended the Egg Roll, alongside Bugs Bunny, Dora the Explorer, the Cat in the Hat, Snoopy, SpongeBob Squarepants and the Power Rangers. On the South Lawn were obstacle courses, yoga and hula-hoops. The White House tennis and basketball courts were also open to guests.

And, of course, the famous Egg Roll was going on throughout the day. Freeman, who participated, said he pushed a hard-boiled egg with an oversized cooking spoon down a roped-off lane, as a handful of other kids attempted the same task along side him.

Upon Freeman’s departure from the White House, he was gifted a wooden Easter egg as a memento to bring home.

One of the most memorable moments at the Egg Roll, the Johnsons said, was during storytime when President Obama read to a group of children.

“We were probably 20 feet or so away from him,” Emily said.

Although the Johnsons said they did not get to meet the First Family, the Obamas were walking around the White House grounds and taking part in the day’s activities.

But the Johnsons did see the four-member First Family and the Easter Bunny from afar when the famous group was introduced to the crowd of Easter Roll participants from a White House balcony.

“In the photos they seem so far away, but we were pretty close,” Emily said, of her family’s view of the Obamas and the Easter Bunny.

The White House Easter Egg Roll tradition dates back more than a century. The original site of the Easter Monday Egg Roll, as it was first called, was the grounds of the United States Capitol. Historians are in disagreement over who took the tradition to the capital; while some say it was First Lady Dolley Madison, there are others who argue that a similar, yet informal egg-rolling event, dates back to President Abraham Lincoln’s administration.

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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