If you happen to be walking around the court square in Shelby or shopping in an area store and see a brightly painted rock, don't be surprised. A new craze has taken over, not just in our area, but around the country and even the world.
The idea is that participants paint and decorate small rocks and then then hide them in public areas. On the back of each rock, they print a message instructing the finder to post a photo of the rock onto a Facebook group named "Cleveland Strong Rocks."
"I started the group in March 2017," says Susan Allen. "I was inspired by another group I saw on Facebook. I learned quickly that this has been going on for a while around the country. It seemed like such a neat idea. I thought it would be a great activity for our local community."
In creating the group, Allen decided to draw on a theme already established in the area.
"The county uses the tag line 'Cleveland Strong' to encourage our citizens to go outside, to exercise and to live a healthy lifestyle," says Allen. In tribute to this theme, Allen decided to name the group "Cleveland Strong Rocks."
"My goal was to inspire people to have fun while getting outside hunting rocks," she says. "This group has exceeded my expectations."
Joni Terry is one person who is very glad Allen started the group.
"My dad passed away recently," she says. "I was walking around my house, and there in the mulch was a rock! It said, 'I will give you a hug.' It was such a simple thing, but it meant so much to me!"
Stephanie Philbeck has also found healing through the rock painting phenomenon.
"I painted some rocks for my best friend, Markie," she says. "He died last October 20. He was born with six different heart defects, and doctors said he wouldn't make it past the age of 2, but he was 17 when he died. He was tough and a fighter and never gave up."
Philbeck painted three rocks in memory of Markie, two red ones with white hearts on them and a black one that says, "That's what she said" - one of Markie's catchphrases.
"I painted the rocks to keep his memory alive," Philbeck says.
While some find painting, hiding, hunting and finding rocks to be spiritually healing, others just find it to be fun.
Miranda Degree's three-year old son, Izaak, would fall into the last category. He went hunting for rocks with a friend and soon wanted to hide and hunt for some of his own.
"Every night we hide some," says Miranda Degree. "We have fun making them. I have made all kinds, including a corn-on-the-cob rock and an M&M one. Izaak likes to paint lots of different colors, which usually run together to make a big brown blob, but he has a lot of fun."
And that's just what Susan Allen had in mind when she started the group back in March.
"The community's having a wonderful time painting, hiding and hunting rocks," she says. "People are getting outside meeting new friends, painting rocks and having a blast doing it."
Allen reports that there have been many positive comments from people on the group's Facebook page and that people often stop her to talk about the rock project.
"This has truly been a wonderful experience watching this project grow to more than 10,000 members," she says. "And it continues to grow each day."
Anyone interested in joining the group or in learning more can visit the Cleveland Strong Rocks page by searching for "Cleveland Strong Rocks" on Facebook.
By April Hoyle Shauf
Special to Community First Media