They’re spreading kindness, one colorful, poignant rock at a time
One message at just the right moment can change someone’s entire day, or even their life!
Have you found a painted rock in the Illinois Valley? Did it have an inspiring message? Chances are it was painted by someone in the Princeton (IL) Rocks group.
Rocks groups such as these were inspired by The Kindness Rocks Project, a pay-it-forward service project, created by life coach Megan Murphy in 2015.
Murphy was walking along the beach in her hometown of Cape Cod, Mass., when she came up with the idea to paint messages on the rocks. The project encourages people to create inspirational rocks and leave them for others to find.
Murphy wanted to spark joy in people’s everyday lives.
Princeton (IL) Rocks patterned itself after Murphy’s project and is currently administered by three amazing ladies — Patty Gibson, Carol Dall and Betsy McGlauflin. This group has more than 700 members.
All three women have embraced the kindness rock movement and find painting rocks to be both therapeutic and rewarding. They hope that their rocks bring joy to the people who find them and hope that their acts of kindness inspire others to spread kindness as well.
The kindness program works simply by painting a rock and tagging the back of it. Then the painter hides the rock wherever they want to. The tag instructs the person who finds the rock to take a picture and post it on the Facebook Group page Princeton (IL) Rocks before rehiding it.
If a person chooses to keep the rock, it is suggested that they paint another rock and hide that to continue to spread the kindness. Rocks can contain simple words of kindness or just an image that would brighten someone’s day.
Gibson painted rocks with her daughters and granddaughters long before the movement because well known.
“We have river bedrock around our pool, so it made it easy to create many fun family memories over the years,” Gibson said.
“If my girls complained they were bored, I sent them out to find some rocks to paint. It was a fun way to use your creative mind.”
Dall started painting rocks with her sister, Linda Burrows from Ottawa, and her nieces, Jamie Ferguson and Autumn Ferguson, four years ago.
Ottawa had a rock group, and Dall wanted to help spread kindness around Ottawa with her family. Then a few years ago, Dall attended a rock painting class at the Princeton Public Library. At this point, Dall started painting rocks weekly.
A little over a year ago, Dall, along with Gibson, created the Tiskilwa Rocks Facebook group, which currently has 467 members.
For her part, McGlauflin said: “I have met a lot of people through our group and learned a little about Princeton and the community that I now live in! It’s a great way to meet so many wonderful people! We are the Crazy Rock Ladies!”
The ladies started having classes in the community to help get the kindness rock movement going.
Rock painting classes have been held at the local schools, Bureau County Senior Center, Princeton and Tiskilwa libraries, local nursing homes and Girl Scout troops.
“We participated in the Tiskilwa Strawberry Festival, Hornbaker Gardens artisan market and the Walnut Harvest Festival,” Dall said.
“We also paint rocks for special occasions like Homestead, the fair, back to school, Z-Tour and Santa’s Workshop ... in December.”
The rocks can be painted with regular acrylic paint, but acrylic markers are much easier and less messy to use. The ladies prep the rocks to make it easier on the painters, young and old, and to be able to accomplish more at a class in a small amount of time.
The use of temporary tattoos allows even ungifted painters the chance to make beautiful rocks.
The group operates on donations. Tooli Arts, an acrylic marker company, donated markers to the group to use for classes.
“We could not do what we do for free without their support,” Gibson said.
“Getting smooth, flat river rocks is not an easy task in our area,” she said. “We have even ordered Santorini stones from the Greek Islands to paint on. They make amazing works of art. My poor mail lady gets a workout with those packages.”
The kindness rocks have traveled the world. The rocks that have been painted by these groups have been found not only all over the United States, but they have surfaced in Canada, Mexico, Romania, Iceland and the Dominican Republic.
“It is fun to see how far they will go and where they will turn up next,” Gibson said. “We are truly doing our part in helping spread kindness, one rock at a time!”