Kindness Rocks Project rippling through Huntington and beyond

Seven-year-old Noah Crittendon poses next to a painted rock he’s hidden at the base of a tree in Hier’s Park. Noah’s mom, Ashley Crittendon, discovered the Kindness Rock Project while vacationing in Florida and spearheaded the organization of Huntington Indiana Rocks. The venture, she says, is meant to “make people happy” by painting and hiding rocks for others to find.
Seven-year-old Noah Crittendon poses next to a painted rock he’s hidden at the base of a tree in Hier’s Park. Noah’s mom, Ashley Crittendon, discovered the Kindness Rock Project while vacationing in Florida and spearheaded the organization of Huntington Indiana Rocks. The venture, she says, is meant to “make people happy” by painting and hiding rocks for others to find. Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Aug. 10, 2017.

Ashley Crittendon was on vacation in Florida over spring break when she found a rock hidden in a hole in a palm tree.

It wasn’t just any old rock; this one had been painted blue and was adorned with a picture of a sun.

“It was really exciting, just finding a simple rock,” Crittendon says.

Now, that excitement is rippling through Huntington as more and more local residents jump on The Kindness Rocks Project bandwagon, joining a campaign that began two years ago in Massachusetts and has now spread throughout the United States — and beyond.

“The purpose is just to make people happy,” Crittendon says. “They have rock groups all over.”

Crittendon started making people happy even before she left Florida. She bought a bag of landscape rocks, painted one with the Pokémon character Pikachu, and put it back in the palm tree.

And she started a “Huntington Indiana Rocks” Facebook page, posting pictures of how the rock project was being done in Florida, to spread the joy to her own hometown.

She says the page is gaining 50 to 100 followers every day, and she estimates that some 2,000 rocks have been hidden around Huntington.

The idea is simple, she says. Take a small, smooth rock, either purchased or found, and decorate it with acrylic paints, Sharpies or anything that will mark on a rock. Coat the rock with outdoor spray gloss or ModPodge to keep the design from wearing off — the whole process takes five or 10 minutes, Crittendon says — and hide the painted rock in a public space for someone else to find.

“I love crafting, so this is right up my alley anyway,” she says.

Anyone one with any skill level can decorate a rock, she says. For a kid, she says, it’s just as exciting to find a rock that’s been painted gold and sprinkled with glitter as it is to discover a finely crafted masterpiece.

The rocks can be decorated with inspirational quotes, as founder Megan Murphy suggests, or just a pretty design that will brighten someone’s day, Crittendon says.

“We even had one business paint a coupon on a rock,” she says.

It’s not an expensive hobby, she says. Acrylic paints can be found for 50 cents a bottle, and the rocks are free for the searching.

“It’s something cheap for the whole family to do. It really is fun for all ages, too,” Crittendon says.

Her kids, ages 3 and 7, help paint; so do her in-laws.

“There’s people with no kids who paint rocks for other to find,” she says.

She says the rocks should be left in public places, suggesting parks, trails, and near downtowns and libraries — not on private property.

Painting the rocks inspires creativity in kids, she says, and looking for the rocks gets people out and walking.

“Everytime I go downtown, I see families with bags of rocks,” she says. “We look when we go out to hide ours, too.”

But, she says, “hide” may not convey the spirit of the project.

“They’re not so much hidden,” she explains. They’re mostly in plain sight.”

People who find a rock can keep it or hide it again for someone else to find, Crittendon says.