My six-year-old son could hardly wait to get home from the skate park the other day to tell me about the treasure he found. “Mom, mom, you have to see this. I found a rock that said ‘have fun skating’ and they painted a big heart on it. It was the coolest thing I have ever seen.” 

Figuring it was probably painted by someone who got bored watching their boyfriend or girlfriend try to ollie and kick-flip their skateboard yet one more time, I dismissed this little round symbol of hope as just another rock. Little did I know that the rock with a special heart on it was placed there intentionally and the smile and excitement it brought my son was exactly the point of this contagious movement.

Kitsap Rocks” was created by a small group of women who had an idea to do art projects with homeschooled students that benefited the community. “We thought it would be a great avenue for our kids to make art on rocks and beautify our community,” said Cathy Tomko, co-founder.

The women exchanged Facebook messages back and forth about other groups, like Port Angeles Rocks. One comment of, “Hey, we can do this here?” followed by, “Maybe we could create this together,” was all it took. Kitsap Rocks Facebook page was born as a result of a few creative women with a desire to make their community better and now has over 2300 members.

It has quickly become a place where people can post their latest creations, show off the rocks they have found and also give hints about where to find hidden ones. Other members are finding inspiration just in the Facebook posts: “This is the happiest place on Facebook…You all ROCK!”

Connie Quatermass, another co-founder, recently shared with me the reasons behind her passion for Kitsap Rocks. “What I love about this project is that it encourages creativity, gets people outside, creates connections with others, is a great family activity and it’s for all ages from toddlers to senior citizens. And most of all, it’s about being creative, doing something positive, and sharing joy with others.”

With messages such as: “Take the first step – the rest is easy,” “Let go,” “Dream,” and “You’re worth it,” it’s no wonder that the feeling of hope and kindness is inspiring so many people to get out and capture this synergistic energy. Just like Pokémon Go has taken over the world, Kitsap Rocks has taken over the community of Kitsap County (and word is spreading fast). 

It seems like the residents of Kitsap County have found the secret ingredient that Pokémon Go is missing: spreading kindness and hope while interacting with the natural world is what we all really need right now.

And spreading kindness and hope is touching so many lives. Quatermass shared a few of her favorite stories with me that seemed to really resonate with her. “A gentleman was on his way to a cardiologist appointment when he found a rock by one of our young Kitsap Rock artists. It had a heart painted on it. He said he’s fighting cancer and needed to get his heart checked before moving forward with treatment. At the appointment, he received good news about his heart and says he’s going to be carrying the heart rock in his pocket throughout his treatments.”

She went on to say that “it amazes me how this simple project can have such profound effects. As we create art rocks, we gift them into the universe, and then the universe seems to use them sometimes to be found by the right person at the right time. People can see them as a sign or answer to something in their life. Or simply to brighten their day.”

This very simple idea of spreading a bit of happiness has turned a fairly large community into a tight knit place of absolute kindness and inspiration. People are organizing painting parties with family and friends and even inviting other members; it’s creating community.

Families, Boys and Girls clubs, community groups, nursing homes; you name it, they are out there designing, hiding, and finding rocks. The Facebook posts are addicting as pictures with #kitsaprocks are being posted every couple of minutes along with hints and clues about where to look. Captions that read: “these can be found at Jackson Park and Horseshoe Lake” and, “My kids rehid two rocks in Bremerton where your teeth get cleaned (off Perry Ave),” make hunting for rocks feel like an exhilarating game of hide-and-seek.

Kitsap Rocks has motivated other communities to start their own group of rock artists and Quatermass and Tomko have shared many of their tips for getting started.

Community rock groups are easily set up on Facebook. Make them public and keep the guidelines simple (no rock hiding in national parks, state parks, private property, cemeteries, etc). Let the group grow naturally.

Appoint quality administrators for the group. As the group grows, it’s helpful to have more than one admin and they need to be positive and encouraging. To keep spam off the group page, admins must check out the member “join group” requests. Tip: it pays to be extra careful when screening prospective members.

Be mindful of the environment. Painted rocks should always be sealed and you never want the art rocks to be seen as litter, so don’t use glued-on additions (sequins, stickers, feathers, yarn, etc.).

Basic info: paint colorful pictures on rocks and add a message, then hide the rock for others to find. When you find a rock of your own, you can either keep it or rehide it.

Get involved with community groups. Kitsap Rocks has partnered with several organizations, like the YWCA, to help promote the organization’s message. These community partnerships are one of the reasons behind the success of the group.

When I set out to write this piece, I simply wanted to find out what these painted rocks were all about. What I didn’t expect to discover were the many stories of hope and inspiration; like a rock with a painted heart found at just the right moment and a message of “let go” discovered by a woman who really needed to see those two words.

“The beautiful part of this project is creating and gifting art to someone who might need a smile, a positive message, or just something to get their mind off what is going on in their lives. That’s my favorite story; making someone’s day when they need it the most,” says Tomko.

I’m sure most people would agree that our world is a whole lot better because of the women behind Kitsap Rocks and the thousands of people who have become a part of this inspiring movement. Together, they have shown us that these simple rocks of hope can empower a community to spread a little bit of love, happiness, and kindness. Something we all could definitely use a lot more of!