Photo: New Haven Register
SHORELINE >> From the town green, to the shores of Long Island Sound, kindness is popping up all along the Shoreline in the form of artfully decorated rocks.
With unique designs and messages that include “Peace,” “Be Happy” and “Stand Tall,” these works of art that fit in the palm of your hand are an inspiration to many.
Madison resident Tammi Davis found her first Kindness Rock during the Touch A Truck event she attended this summer with her son, Caleb, 7 and her 4-year-old daughter, Reagan.
“It was such a nice feeling to find the rock and it made my day,” says Davis. “It’s something so small.”
The two-toned blue rock, with a sun, a seagull and the words “Gull Rock” covering it, was left at the Academy School by a visitor from Erie, Penn. On the reverse side was written “Facebook Rock Out Erie.”
It was through the Facebook page that Davis connected with the artist. “She told me the story on how she put them around town, hoping to spread the kindness around,” she recalls.
Davis knew Madison needed to get involved, so she created the Facebook page, The MAD CT Rocks. It is through this site that the real impact of the Kindness Rock Project shines through.
“I found this #kindnessrock in Madison yesterday!” writes Liz Dunn, along with a photo of a rock painted with the word “Play.”
“It was on the sign at the end of the driveway to Ryerson Elementary,” she continues. “I’m soaking up the time with my two little ones this week before school starts back up, so this was a perfect little reminder. #kindnessrocksproject.”
Megan Murphy started The Kindness Rocks Project in Cape Cod two and a half years ago. It start as started as a hobby and it really took off because as people from around the world visit, they find the rocks and then they go home and start the project in their communities, she explains.
In a phone call from her home in Massachusetts, Murphy says she is thrilled to hear the phenomenon is spreading across the Shoreline.
“It’s so wonderful how it’s spreading,” says Murphy. “I think the message is really needed.
“It’s not that the message is needed today,” she emphasizes, “it’s always needed and the fact that people are coming on board and recognizing that we can each make a big difference and have an impact no matter what’s going on. It gives people hope.”
Murphy is quick to add that she started Kindness Rocks, but it is others that are helping to propagate it.
“I never planned on creating this movement,” says Murphy. “It was just something that naturally happened.”
Libby Wittner-Heinz is amazed by how fast the concept has taken hold in Guilford. She estimates that upwards of 200 Kindness Rocks have been created since her first Kindness Rock post on social media at the beginning of August.
Many of the Kindness Rocks left in special spots throughout Guilford have the message Simply Guilford, CT on the flip side, encouraging those finding them to post a photo on the Facebook site. Photos are also posted on CT Shoreline ROCKS Facebook.
“I put the pictures of the rocks that I did on Simply Guilford, or just on Facebook, and all of a sudden people would even request rocks from me,” Wittner-Heinz says.
“It just took off, like…I can’t even explain how it took off,” the 70-year-old says. “Then I was getting all these requests and people were calling me ‘The Rock Lady’ and then other people, who were much better artist than myself, started putting pictures of their work on Facebook.
“Now it’s expanded so much,” she adds. “It’s just unbelievable.”
Terri Donarumo, who teaches art at Guilford’s Calvin Leete School and Melissa Jones Elementary School, collected over 500 rocks during the summer. These rocks have been painted by her students and are being dispersed throughout town.
“I thought it would be a great first day of art, ice breaker project, considering over the summer I saw how Kindness Rocks kind of really built up and became a big profound movement in Guilford,” Donarumo says.
“We went into an in depth discussion about what these Kindness Rocks are,” she explains, “what they mean, what happens when you find one and just how to promote being kind and doing something nice and inspiring others.”
The creations are usually left around high traffic areas including E.C. Scranton Library, the Madison Senior Center and Rockland Preserve in Madison and in Guilford on the green, at Jacobs Beach and the Guilford Town Marina.
While Guilford resident Beth Freeborn enjoys planting her creations where people congregate, she also finds joy in leaving them in unique places.
“I put them in places that’s not high traffic for everybody, but it’s high traffic for me, like going to the bank,” she says.
Jennifer Cruet has been fortunate to find five of these special treasures in her travels around Guilford.
“It’s like you’re discovering a little treasure,” she says. “You’re discovering a little gem.
“I think when people find them they never fail to bring a smile to people’s faces,” the Guilford resident adds. “I’ve seen other people find them and they always bring a smile to their faces.”
She believes people find rocks that are meant specifically for them. Case in point, her discovery of a rock bearing the New York Yankees logo. After posting it on Simply Guilford, CT she received a message.
“A woman responded to my post by saying, ‘My son painted that rock and he’s so happy that you found it.’
“I told her, ‘Tell your son I’m keeping it because it might bring the Yankees luck and I love the Yankees, I’m a big Yankee fan.’ She said her son was so happy.”
Cruet added, laughing, “They did win yesterday, after I found the rock.”
It is interactions like this that make this growing phenomenon so positive.
“It’s a win-win,” she says.
There is also a much bigger message with the Kindness Rocks, she believes.
“In the world, in general, there’s a lot of anger and hate out there right now,” she says.
“I think that it was a beautiful anecdote to the hate,” she adds. “People just got so caught up in the Kindness Rocks and it brightened people’s days.”
The rock artists’ tools include Sharpie Permanent Markers, acrylic paint, shellac and Modge Podge. Many of the rocks are designed to withstand all types of weather.
“I use dimension fabric paint that works really well because it’s waterproof,” says Freeborn, “and I use nail polish, (it’s) inexpensive and it comes in all kinds of colors and sparkles.”
The smoother the rock, the easier it is to paint, but any type of small rock works for the project. They can be collected in nature or purchased at The Home Depot or Michaels Arts & Crafts.
Freeborn collects her rocks at Beavertail State Park in Jamestown, R.I.
“They are nice and smooth,” she comments. “I’ve seen other rocks on Simply Guilford where people obviously just grabbed rocks out of their yard, but that’s fine, too, because it adds texture to the rock when you paint it.”
She applauds the children who are involved with the project at a very young age. “I can tell some rocks that I’ve seen on Simply Guilford are made by kids that are little, little, which I think is very good because you’re teaching them a nice lesson.”
While each Kindness Rock is unique and different, they represent a universal message.
“Without words there’s still a meaning of kindness behind it and a message from somebody to pass onto a stranger,” says Jeff Larsen, Jr., of Guilford, who discovered a Kindness Rock at the Guilford Savings Bank ATM machine.
“It’s definitely neat to see that it finally reached Guilford and people have taken advantage of it and keep it going,” he adds.
Wittner-Heinz, a retired Baldwin Middle School special education paraprofessional, is finding great joy in the project.
“It’s like paying it forward,” she says, “making people happy, making people enjoy their day.
“It’s a wonderful inspiration for me,” she adds, “to do good for young people, old people and any people who are out there that need an uplift.”
Facebook Kindness Rocks Project; Simply Guilford, CT; MAD CT Rocks and CT Shoreline ROCKS; thekindnessrocksproject.com