- Associated Press - Sunday, September 17, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A colorful, painted rock Misty Mitchell of Springfield hid in Summerville, South Carolina, turned out to be the inspiration needed by a 3-year-old boy who faced open-heart surgery.

Mitchell helped bring to Springfield a painted rock community that’s organized on Facebook: “Springfield IL Rocks.”

The painted rock community is part of a movement sweeping the nation of communities forming rock-painting groups to brighten strangers’ days by painting rocks, hiding rocks and hunting for rocks painted by other people.

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Mitchell has painted over 1,000 rocks, hiding them around Springfield and Summerville, where her son, Devin Mitchell; daughter-in-law, Ashley Mitchell, and their two children — Bryson, 5, and Addie Grace, 1, live.

A rock featuring a flower and a bee that said, “Be Happy” that Misty painted and hid in Summerville was found by a woman who has a 3-year-old grandson with heart problems. The woman had planned to relocate the rock at a rest stop while traveling home to Alabama, but she forgot. Instead, she gave it to her grandson.

“A lady found a rock that I’d put out when I was actually in Summerville back there visiting my grandchildren,” Misty said. “Her little 3-year-old grandson held onto this rock as he went to a heart specialist. He held onto that rock for like … days and never put it down. The rock meant something to him, and it helped him get through his doctor’s appointments. It was a very touching story to me.

“That’s just what makes it all worthwhile. You put 1,000 rocks out there, and you get one story back. It makes it worth everything that you put into it,” Misty said.

Ashley Mitchell said her son, Bryson, found a rock around Easter time at a picnic in Summerville.

“My son was Pokemon hunting, and he found a rock. That’s where it kind of started with us,” said Ashley, who added her children paint and hide rocks “all the time.”

“My mother-in-law came down last year for the hurricane, and got him hooked on Pokemon hunting, and then now it’s rock hunting. … Literally, whenever she comes and visits and we go on like joint vacations together, she and I bring (acrylic) paint and rocks, and we paint rocks.”

Inspired by Summerville ROCKS Facebook page, Springfield IL Rocks was founded on Mother’s Day weekend after Misty returned to Springfield from a visit to Summerville. The Springfield page has nearly 7,000 members.

“I was down there painting with my grandkids, Ashley, and it’s fun to do. Whoever thought painting rocks would be something so fun. Other people probably don’t understand it until you actually paint a rock and do it,” Misty said.

“I came back (to Springfield) and looked and there wasn’t a page here. Then I thought about it, and I thought, ‘Well, I really don’t have time to start a page,’ so I didn’t do it. Then I thought about it for the next couple of days, and it’s like I couldn’t stop thinking about painting those rocks and putting them out, so I just started a page here.”

According to Springfield IL Rocks, which Misty and Ashley co-manage, the idea is to decorate rocks and hide them in various locations to brighten someone’s day. Participants can use paint, chalk, permanent marking pen, etc., as long as the art has a clear coat of sealer over it for preservation.

Creators are to write on the back of the rock, using a permanent marking pen: “Post a picture to Springfield IL Rocks Facebook Page.” They can also write, “Keep me or re-hide me.” Once found, people can keep it for themselves or hide in somewhere else. Some Springfield IL Rocks members even hide them in different cities.

Misty painted 350 rocks for her first “rock drop” in Springfield.

“I just put them all over town because I didn’t know if it would take off or if people would like it here, but it’s taken off amazingly,” Misty said.

Some of the more popular places to hide rocks in Springfield are in public parks, such as Washington and Lincoln in Springfield.

Lindsay Record posted on Springfield IL Rocks a photo of rocks found by her daughter, Adeline Record-Frank, 7, and Adeline’s friend, Maizie Peebles, 6.

“These two were excited to find this rock along South Grand today (Aug. 22). They are going to enjoy for a few days and re-hide later this week!” Record posted.

Record said that that post represented probably the fourth time they had found a rock.

“The first one I found by myself in Washington Park, and I brought it home to the kids and showed them, and they thought that was really neat — just the whole idea of it,” Record said. “That people were out there hiding rocks that were painted, that they could paint them, too, and leave them for other people and that there is essentially this treasure hunt that’s going on.”

Record said that the excitement of finding a rock encourages a desire to create “this experience for someone else to have the excitement of finding one,” motivating participation.

Mitchell said she’s surprised the Facebook page has attracted so many members in just a few months.

“It’s amazing how much it’s grown, and how it’s kind of bringing the community together, and so much positivity behind it. There’s been a few negative things, but I guess you have that with anything,” Misty said. “I think in this world today any kind of amount of kindness or happiness that we can spread is so much a plus and so needed.”


Source: The (Springfield) State Journal-Register, https://bit.ly/2xj7Afc


Information from: The State Journal-Register, https://www.sj-r.com

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