A team of local pediatric therapists was able to get in on Bluffton Jack’s final tour. It wasn’t his typical tour, though. This time it was a scavenger hunt through Old Town Bluffton.
After a “lunch and learn” April 9 at FARM, the staff of Lowcountry Therapy Center was introduced to Bluffton Jack, a 19th century character played by Bluffton resident Rodney Vaughn of Bluffton Jack’s Old Town Tours.
Bluffton Jack shared his story with the group of occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech-language pathologists before explaining the rules of the game. The son of a sharecropper, Bluffton Jack was born Sept. 25, 1855, in Bluffton.
As he did for his tours, Vaughn hosted the entire scavenger hunt in character.
“The tour is really not just a dry history of Bluffton,” Vaughn said. “Since it’s all told in first-person perspective, it really is very entertaining.”
Lowcountry Therapy Center founder and speech-language pathologist Jessi Dolnik had never been on one of Vaughn’s tours but had seen the historic portrayer around town dressed in his 1800s garb. When she was thinking about possible outdoor team-building activities to do with her staff, she thought of Bluffton Jack’s tours.
“I think it’s important for people to learn a little bit more about the history of Bluffton,” Dolnik said. “My fifth grader is learning a lot about the Civil War and the Revolutionary War, and so much of that history happened in this area. I mean, the Secession tree is on my friend’s property, where the South seceded.”
Dolnik said the scavenger hunt was the best team-building event her therapy center has done yet. They do these activities at least once a year. In July, Lowcountry Therapy Center will celebrate 11 years in business.
About 40 staff members participated in the scavenger hunt. There were six teams. Each team was given a printout with facts about Bluffton that they could use to find answers along the way.
The goal was to find 10 historical landmarks in Old Town Bluffton. To begin, someone from each team would use a cell phone to scan a QR code, which would give them a clue about the first landmark. As they found each structure, they had to take a group photo in front of it and scan another QR code. Each time they completed one of these tasks, the teams received points.
“The clues were written in first person,” Vaughn said. “So, if they’re looking for The Store on Calhoun, the clue might say, ‘I was constructed in 1914, and I’ve served many owners throughout the years. If you needed to buy milk and eggs, I was the place to go.”
When the teams of therapists made it to The Store, owner and longtime Blufftonian Babbie Guscio came outside to say hello.
The scavenger hunt lasted about 90 minutes. When the teams were finished finding all 10 landmarks, they met at Dubois Park for an awards ceremony. The first-place team won a trophy.
Unfortunately for Bluffton, the scavenger hunt was Bluffton Jack’s final act here. Vaughn had to suspend his tours in March 2020 because of COVID-19. He agreed to do this last event only because he was fully vaccinated, as were all of the Lowcountry Therapy staff. After 14 years in the Lowcountry, Vaughn is now planning to move to North Carolina to be closer to family.
Originally from western Kentucky, Vaughn quickly fell in love with Old Town Bluffton when he discovered it. He was a member of the Rotary Club of Bluffton and served as president of the Old Town Bluffton Merchants Society. He was the arts and entertainment reporter for The Bluffton News on WHHI-TV and an instructor for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of South Carolina Beaufort.
Vaughn is also the co-founder and producer of a theatre company based in Ridgeland called Coastal Stage Productions.
“I’ve really enjoyed being able to do it because I love the history of Bluffton,” Vaughn said.
Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.