Kindness Rocks spread messages of inspiration and community warmth

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Elouise was among the local children last week who was delighted to find a Prairie du Chien Kindness Rock. She found hers outside Zinkle’s Piggly Wiggly and has been overjoyed to spread the happiness by creating other rocks with her family to hide in Prairie du Chien. (Facebook photos)

Krystal Forde utilized her artistic skills and creative mind to cover these rocks with kindness.

Kris Wagner, of Prairie du Chien, decorated these stones, using kite string and spray paint to create the tie-dyed effect.

Area youth have been the most active in painting rocks for the movement.

This yellow, SpongeBob SquarePants rock was hidden off the beaten path.

A Kindness Rock awaits its curious hunter along the riverfront.

By Correne Martin

If you haven’t noticed the cleverly-decorated rocks hidden sporadically around Prairie du Chien, then you’ve at least seen the Facebook pictures of excited kids posing with painted stones they’ve found.

Prairie du Chien Kindness Rocks started at the beginning of August. The free, family-friendly activity is meant to inspire people to get out and be active together and hopefully bridge the gap between the wealthy and the homeless in the community through altruistic messages.

“We live in a community that has a high percentage of poverty. Simply put, there are many who cannot afford activities,” expressed Cassie Hubanks, who, along with Krystal Forde, started Prairie du Chien Kindness Rocks. “I imagine kindness rocks opening more doors to connect people from all walks of life.”

Forde said, the woman who started the Kindness Rocks movement is from Barnstable, Mass. The idea began when she started collecting rocks along the beach, while reflecting on the loss of her parents and searching for guidance raising her teenagers. She found the rocks inspirational, and she thought maybe others would too. She and her teens started painting messages on them. She began leaving a few here and there on beaches in the Barnstable area. After that, it spread like wildfire.

The crusade made its way to Prairie du Chien when Forde learned about it from a family member in early August. Kindness Rocks activities were happening in other communities, such as Boscobel and Bloomington. So, Forde passed the word onto Hubanks, who had her own experience with Kindness Rocks.

“I found a rock at my place of employment. I wasn’t sure why it was there, but something told me not to throw it out. I’m glad I didn’t,” she stated. “I started seeing posts on social media. But, what really caught my eye was all of the pictures of children smiling with their rocks, and the joy it brought others knowing their rock had been found and brought happiness to someone else.”

The two decided to create a Facebook page for the venture in Prairie du Chien. They started adding friends and posting pictures of rocks they’d created. They also initiated the hashtag #pdcrocks so  people could follow the posts more easily. The hashtag is painted on the back of many of the rocks.

“The goal is to inspire people to get out and be active, go for family bike rides and walks. It gets kids and families out of the house and off electronics,” Forde said. “It’s also something great families can do together—whether it’s painting rocks or looking for rocks.”

Now, a few weeks later, the Facebook group is full of pictures of rocks found, painted and hidden.

“Parents have posted pictures of things like cartoon characters and animals, and many inspirational messages have been seen. There are many downtown along Blackhawk Avene and on St. Feriole Island,” Forde shared.
The Facebook page currently has 440 members. Forde explained that the group is really what people can make of it.

She said, “The foundation of it is to spend time making others happy through giving. The experience is fun for children and families, of course, but the message being sent to children is happiness is found through giving more than receiving. They are participating in simple acts of kindness for free. Families are having fun for little to no cost and kindness is spreading throughout our community.”

Prairie du Chien Kindness Rocks can be placed wherever the creators wish, be it at local business and organization offices, governmental offices, parks, walking paths, etc.

A few businesses have jumped on board with the national concept of sponsoring prizes for rocks turned in at their establishments. Some have decided to give away free ice cream cones or small trinkets.

“We would love to see more businesses paint rocks that include a ‘prize,’ where the lucky person who finds that rock can visit the business and redeem their prize, then re-hide the rock for someone else to find,” Forde said. “For example, if one child finds a free ice cream cone, chances are, their parents and siblings will be going with them to redeem that prize and they’ll all get treats. It could really help bring business into local shops.”

Hubanks said she hopes Prairie du Chien Kindness Rocks can continue in the community. She said she’ll be watching to see what other communities do, especially as winter approaches.

As that happens, the pair encourages the public to get involved by posting in the group and using the hashtag #pdckindnessrocks. Post children’s reactions, post the rocks hidden and the rocks found; then, others can enjoy the happiness their rocks brought to others.

“I hope kindness rocks brings unity and inspires people to reach out to a complete stranger and show kindness, for free even beyond the rocks and the Facebook page,” Hubanks said. “If Krystal and I were the only people to participate in Kindness Rocks, we would have been happy knowing we shed some light on someone else’s darkness. However, that wasn’t enough for us. We want bigger and better for our children and for the community and world they live in. What better way to spread kindness than to plant in little people’s minds that it’s not what you have, it’s what you give and who you share that with.”

Anyone with questions is encouraged to share them on the Facebook page. Hubanks noted, this movement is versatile and people can take away what they put into it.

“Do you want to find more rocks? Then share more rocks. Do you want rocks with prizes? Start sharing rocks with prizes,” she said. “If a business or government entity, or religious organization wants more exposure to children and families, place some rocks with positive messages sharing why your organization is good for the community. Invite them to your organization and talk to them in person.”

Forde added, “The woman who started this placed a sign by a pile of painted rocks: The Kindness Rocks Projects. One message at just the right time can change your entire day…outlook…life! Take one, share one or add one to the pile.”

For more information, visit www.thekindessrocksproject.com/how-it-all-began. Visitors can also access a map on the site that shows the places across the entire world that are sharing kindness rocks.

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