Painted rocks turning up all over the country, including Pittsburgh region
During a February walk through Ohio's Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Cynthia and Mark Golebie found several rocks clearly embellished beyond Mother Nature's typical shades of black, gray or brown.
These rocks were painted, and labeled on the back with a simple request: enjoy, photograph and post to a Northeast Ohio Facebook site and rehide.
“I thought it was a cute idea. … It really made my day,” says Golebie, 48, of Castle Shannon.
After conducting an Internet and Facebook search and finding no rock painting groups near her, Golebie founded her own, Pittsburgh Rocks.
She launched the site in March with 200 rocks, sharing the project with her Facebook friends and family.
By early June, the site's members exceeded 4,000.
Although Golebie found a regional group to model her own after, painting rocks with flags, animal faces, flowers or motivational messages, then randomly hiding them, is part of a national grassroots movement.
Cape Cod resident and life coach Megan Murphy established the Kindness Rocks Project, painting and dropping a few rocks as a hobby. After several friends who found them reached out to her, she began a social media campaign.
“Kindness rocks” now turn up around the world; regional subgroups have formed in Bedford, Crawford and Potter counties.
Golebie says finding the rocks helped to give her a purpose and break through the grief of losing her daughter, Amanda, 24, in 2015.
“It's something my daughter would have loved. She was so artistic,” she says. “It has given me meaning. I do special butterfly rocks for her, with her initials — ALG. … I know this is something she would love. I tell my husband she's cheering me from above.”
After painting round-the-clock, Golebie hid the first batch of rocks.
The Facebook site explains how to paint and seal the rocks. Labels ask finders to post a photo to the site and place their finds somewhere else for another lucky person to discover.
“I've gotten such great response from everyone,” Golebie says.
“I have parents thanking me, saying their kids want to go outside (to search for rocks), away from their video screens,” she says.
Sports teams, Harry Potter, rainbows, even Mickey Mouse, along with messages like “Inspire,” “Life is Good” or “Be Happy,” are examples of rocks hidden and found around the region.
They turn up in places like South Park, North Park, Brentwood Towne Square, near a music store in Baldwin, at Kennywood Park, atop Mt. Washington, Family Funscape Inc. in Elizabeth and along the Montour Trail.
Posts show Pittsburgh Rocks covering some distance, landing at Sara's Restaurant in Erie, at the New River Gorge in West Virginia, Willis Tower in Chicago, Capitol Reef National Park in Utah and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio.
No political messages or cause ribbons are allowed — the platform is sharing kindness, Golebie says.
“This got me out of a dark hole. Seeing all the smiling faces of kids finding rocks — how can that not brighten someone's day?” she says.
A rock painted pink, with a black flamingo outline and the words “Be Original,” recently turned up at Kentuck Knob, a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Chalk Hill, Fayette County.
Its label identifies it as having been painted by a member of the Northeast Ohio Rocks group.
Emily Butler, property head of preservation and conservation, says a staff member found the rock in early June in the grass at the base of a birdhouse pole.
“We rehid it on the grounds, in the hope someone finds it and hides it again,” Butler says.
Jamie Verri of Vandergrift, a member of Pittsburgh Rocks Group, uses #VandergriftRocks to encourage more residents in her Westmoreland County community to paint, hide and seek rocks.
She placed her first rocks at the end of May, and several have been found at the Vandergrift pool and Vandergrift Public Library.
Verri and her children, ages 18, 13 and 9, all participate.
“It's very hard to find something we can all do together, and this is it,” she says.
“There is no age limit. My 9-year-old daughter, Allura, has been the fire behind it. She loves anything crafty, messy or mysterious,” says Verri, 37.
“I love writing, drawing, painting. … It got me out of my comfort zone. I'm talking to people when we are out and about. I'm really enjoying this,” Verri says.
She hopes the project takes off in her community, and places some rocks label side up so people will know to pass them on.
“It's like a nice chain letter. I plan to keep going,” Verri says.