For the past two years, Sonia Amerine has been spreading kindness with a Facebook page called #GreatBendRocks. With well over 900 members, the group shares photos of hand-painted rocks that people leave for others to find. Some of the rocks bear encouraging messages, such as “Don’t give up,” while others are statements of faith or miniature works of art.
The group’s description on Facebook states, “Let’s come together to make our community fun again and a GREAT place to live! Great Bend ROCKS!”
Regular contributors to the group add a message to the underside of their rocks, explaining that whoever finds them can “keep me or re-hide me,” and inviting them to post photos on the Facebook page.
Great Bend Rocks is an offshoot of a worldwide viral trend, sometimes called The Kindness Rock Project. Amerine started the group in 2017 when Great Bend residents were divided over the city administrator’s decision to fire the chief of police.
“The whole community was divided,” Amerine recalled. “There was a lot of hostility. I thought that there just needed to be some kindness.”
A traveling nurse, Amerine grew up in Great Bend and it will always be her hometown, even though she has moved to Ellinwood since starting the group. She always thought of Great Bend as a kind community, and started her project “as a way to try to promote some unity in our community,” she said.
“I am thrilled at how well it took off!” Amerine said, crediting the participants for the group’s success. With group members taking rocks to other communities and even on overseas vacations, rocks from Great Bend have turned up in locations as far away as London and Spain.
Great Bend Rocks members have participated in community events such as Party in the Park, where people were invited to paint a rock and leave it to be “hidden in plain sight.” Members also helped with a WILD Club activity for kids at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center last November. KWEC Program Specialist Mandy Kern said about 30 people attended and painted rocks that day.
As a result of that activity, quite a few kindness rocks have been hidden around the KWEC grounds and Nature Trail, said Curtis Wolf, site manager. Some parks and public places have rules against leaving the rocks, but Wolf said he has no problem with the activity. “I think it is a neat idea and a good way to get people outside.”
Painting and hiding kindness rocks is an inter-generational pastime. While the rock paintings posted on social media are done mostly by adults, kids enjoy painting and hiding them too. Youth groups and nursing homes alike have added rock painting to their activities.
Amerine herself said she’s always enjoyed creative projects but never considered herself a great artist. Now she has a room in her home devoted to rock painting. “My purse and pockets are always full of rocks — just like when I was a kid,” she said. “I could sit and paint for hours.”
Others just enjoy the thrill of the hunt, or the pleasure for making a unique discovery while getting some exercise. No matter how people participate, the goal is simply to brighten someone’s day and share a message of kindness, she said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
For those interested in painting and sharing rocks, GoRoc.com offers these tips:
• Choose a rock with a smooth finish from your yard, or buy them in bulk from a hobby store or garden center.
• Acrylic craft paint, available in small bottles from craft stores, works the best. Paint pens work well for adding fine details or words. Water-based, non-toxic acrylic is friendlier for the environment.
• Priming the rock with white or black paint first can be helpful.
• Add a message on the back. Invite whoever finds the rock to re-hide it or keep it. If you’re part of a group such as #GreatBendRocks, ask them to share a photo online. The message can be handwritten or printed on a label; just make sure it’s legible.
• Seal the rock with clear enamel spray or brushable clear varnish. Make sure it is fully dry before hiding the rock. Leave it where someone is likely to find it, like a park bench, picnic table, at the playground or outside your favorite fun spot. Keep safety and kindness in mind – don’t put a rock where it could fall and hurt someone, and check the rules.