Nova Scotia

Random act of kindness inspires 2 years of scavenger hunts in Annapolis Valley

What started as a simple random act of kindness two years ago has now turned into a Annapolis Valley-wide scavenger hunt for all ages — aimed at getting people outside and helping their mental health.

The Annapolis Valley Scavenger Hunt stretches from Greenwood to Windsor

Chris Dorman is the founder of the Annapolis Valley Scavenger Hunt. He started it in August 2018. (Submitted by Chris Dorman)

What started as a simple random act of kindness two years ago has turned into a Annapolis Valley-wide scavenger hunt for all ages.

It's aimed at getting people outside and spending time with their families and to help their mental health.

"I think that everybody needs something to focus on that's positive," said Chris Dorman, the founder of the Annapolis Valley Scavenger Hunt.

"This is something that I can focus on that I know is making a positive difference on some level within the community."

Dorman, an educational assistant with the Annapolis Valley Regional Centre for Education, started organizing scavenger hunts in August 2018.

It started when he felt like doing something nice for someone, but he didn't want to just pay for someone's coffee in the drive-thru at Tim Hortons.

"It came into my head that I would do something a little bit stranger than that and buy some gift cards, put them in jars and post on the Facebook yard sale sites that I was hiding jars out there and putting hints up," he said.

Gift cards are placed in jars so they can be hidden without being damaged by weather. (Submitted by Chris Dorman)

Dorman hid the jars in the Kentville-New Minas area. The four $5 gift cards were found within 15 minutes.

That same day, he started the Annapolis Valley Scavenger Hunt Facebook page.

It has since amassed 4,500 followers and the hunts are organized across most of the Annapolis Valley, from Greenwood to Windsor.

Dorman said he and a team of community volunteers hide up to four jars a week. They usually hold a gift card to a local restaurant.

He then posts hints on the Facebook page so people can start searching. Once a jar is found, the winner has to send him photo proof.

He estimates the scavenger hunt has given away up to $10,000 in donated gift cards and cash.

Mental health a priority

Dorman and his team have most recently partnered with BrandPro to host the Nova Scotia Staycation Crawl encouraging people to get outside and explore the province while supporting the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic has affected people's mental health so he's happy to be able to give people the opportunity to spend time with their family.

"I wanted to do something where families could reconnect together," he said. "People said that even their teenagers we're excited to get out and [they're] reconnecting ... because they're going hunting together."

Dorman said the scavenger hunts have allowed parents to reconnect with their children while also getting outside. (Submitted by Chris Dorman)

Dorman said his favourite memory from the last two years was when he hid $100 in a jar in Port Williams.

"The person that found it came to me and they were like, 'You don't know how much this means to me,'" he said.

Crystal Hartt is the person who found that jar. She has been following Dorman's scavenger hunts since the beginning.

"It meant a lot because … my income is basically nil. So just to have that extra $50 — because my friend and I split it — it really did help me out just with little things in the household," Hartt said.

"But even just getting to spend time with my friend and getting out, that was a lot, too."

Crystal Harrt and her friend found a $100 jar by the baseball field behind Port Williams Elementary School. (Submitted by Crystal Hartt)

Hartt, who lives in Centreville, said the scavenger hunts help her stay active. She's participated in about 10 hunts either with her adult son or her best friend.

Hartt said the hunts also help with her mental health. She's struggled with depression since she was a teenager.

"To get out and to have fun and forget about life's troubles ... it's nice to get out and get the fresh air and a little bit of exercise," she said. 

"It's exciting to hunt — even more exciting if you find it."

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