Unused to kindness from strangers, Tion Reiner burst into tears Friday morning when a volunteer handed Easter baskets stuffed with toys and candy to her two young boys.
"Nobody does this kind of stuff," Reiner said while standing behind her run-down apartment complex near Cheyenne Avenue and Michael Way. "Most people here can't afford this. This is a blessing."
Reiner's sons, 5-year-old Deacon and 3-year-old Blaine, were among dozens of children at the complex who came running when word spread that people were handing out free Easter baskets from the back of a van.
"I never saw anything like this," Raquel Quintero said in Spanish, wide-eyed as she steered her daughter and two sons toward the van. "I couldn't have afforded this many things."
The unexpected deliveries were part of the annual E Bunny program, which this year will provide about 1,200 free Easter baskets to children.
The apartment complex was one of several Friday stops that included laundromats, parking lots and sometimes sketchy neighborhoods where kids often don't have much to look forward to.
E Bunny founder Barbara Kenig each year collects hundreds of donated baskets from individuals, businesses and churches. She then organizes volunteers to deliver the baskets to shelters and other places where children who don't have a lot are found.
Kenig, 61, started the program 18 years ago while living in Detroit.
"It was funny because I'm Jewish," she said. "But it's all about the kids. Everybody remembers them at Christmas and the big holidays, but nobody thinks about Easter. It's a spiritual thing, a time of hope and renewal."
Kenig, who works in public relations and whose license plate reads EBUNNY, brought the program with her when she moved to Las Vegas in 1999. She's been organizing it here every year since.
"We started out with 300 baskets off the top," she said. "Baskets come in from everywhere. I don't know these people, they just call me and say, 'Let me help.'"
Linda Lera-Randle El, the director of the Straight from the Streets homeless outreach program, takes a couple of days off from working with the valley's chronic homeless each year to help deliver the baskets with Bev Campbell, another volunteer.
"Today, we're looking for people who are just out there trying to make it, doing an honest day's work, but whose income's a little low. People for whom every quarter counts," Lera-Randle El said as she pulled up to a laundromat near Owens Avenue and J Street.
A woman standing outside the laundromat with her young son didn't believe the baskets were free.
"Are you serious?" she asked Lera-Randle El. "Thank you so much. We weren't going to have anything for Easter."
The volunteers often meet with resistance at first, Lera-Randle El said.
"People are suspicious," she said. "They say, 'No, no,' or ask, 'How much?' Then it cheers you up to see people who are so appreciative. Nobody forgets to say thanks."
Not even the tough-looking boys in their early teens Lera-Randle El encountered hanging out in an alley behind a low-rent apartment complex at Fremont and 13th streets.
The boys stared silently at Lera-Randle El as she hopped out of the van and opened the back, revealing a rapidly dwindling supply of baskets.
"Want an Easter basket?" she called to them.
The boys' faces broke into smiles as they took the proffered baskets full of candy.
"Thank you," they said before wandering away.
"Some people would say they (the boys) are too old for this kind of thing," Lera-Randle El said. "But how can you be too old for an Easter basket?"
Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at email@example.com or (702) 383-0285.