People around Sabetha are spreading kindness by hiding painted rocks for others to find.
In just over a week, a new pastime has become a craze in Sabetha — painting, hiding, and then hunting for rocks. These are not just any rocks. They are painted rocks — some with messages, some with colorful designs — but all with the same intent in mind, to spread joy to a stranger.
Sabetha resident Jessica Everhart and her 9-year-old daughter Bella Peterson started Sabetha Rocks as a way to spread a little positivity throughout the community. They started painting and hiding rocks on Saturday, July 27, and created a Facebook page, “Sabetha Rocks.”
Within just a few days, people began posting photos of rocks they had found all over town — on the sidewalk, in landscaping, on playground equipment and anywhere and everywhere one can imagine.
The concept is simple — find a painted rock hidden in a public place throughout town. Then, re-hide it for someone else to find it. If you have Facebook, join the Sabetha Rocks page and post a photo of the rock and where you found it.
While new to Sabetha, rock painting and hiding has national recognition. Nationally, “The Kindness Rocks Project” was born to bring encouragement to others — maybe when they least expected it. Many Facebook groups have been set up all over the United States very similar to Sabetha Rocks.
Everhart, who is originally from Hiawatha, moved to Sabetha from Prattville, Ala., in November 2018.
“When we lived in Alabama, there was a ‘Prattville Rocks’ and Bella and I loved doing it,” Everhart said. “I thought it might be something we could do here too.”
Everhart’s mom, Sabetha resident Karen Everhart, encouraged her to start Sabetha Rocks.
“We are so happy and excited what this group has brought to our community,” K. Everhart said. “It has far exceeded our expectations. It truly has brought joy to so many people. Just walking or driving around town seeing the smiling faces and the kindness is amazing.”
If the Facebook page reached 500 members, J. Everhart promised a special rock with a prize. It took just five days to reach 500.
“It kind of exploded,” she said. “I didn’t think it would get so big so fast,” adding that she didn’t know a lot of people in Sabetha.
Within the first five days, Everhart estimated that 500 rocks had been hidden. That number grows higher by the day as more and more people post photos of rocks they have painted and hid.
“The pictures people are posting — whether it’s painting rocks or finding them — they express pure happiness and that is exactly why we wanted to do this here. Thank you, Sabetha!” K. Everhart said.
Sabetha Rocks is accomplishing a mission — spreading joy to others by one simple act.
“This is just such a fun thing for all ages to come together in our small town,” Vicki Edelman said. “Everyone can play, and it brightens up your day. It teaches our younger generation to share and care!”
Everhart said her ultimate goal was not to stop at Sabetha.
“I would love to have it going in Fairview, Morrill, Hiawatha and other neighboring towns,” Everhart said on Day 5.
That goal has become a reality as people in neighboring towns and even as far as St. Joseph, Mo., have posted on the Sabetha Rocks Facebook page that they have found rocks and re-hidden them.
Andee Rettele of Fairview and her two sons — Louis and Grant — have painted and hidden rocks throughout Fairview.
“Sabetha Rocks has done something so unusual in our current world,” Rettele said. “It has pulled families from all backgrounds together and encourages exploring our wonderful community.”
Rettele said Sabetha Rocks has given families an easy activity that offers so much reward by way of physical activity, family cohesiveness and fun.
“We spent hours and hours painting over the weekend and then finding and hiding rocks,” she said.
Rockin’ Good times
But Sabetha Rocks is accomplishing more than just spreading joy — it is bringing people together. Families are spending time painting rocks and finding and re-hiding them. Friends are hosting “rock painting parties.”
“This is a really fun, good family thing to do,” Everhart said.
Kim Bass watches her three grandchildren — 3-year-old Sutton Clements, 4-year-old Ava Clements, and 4-year-old Ruger Clements — and said they made an adventure of rock painting and hiding.
“I am always looking for fun activities to do with them, so thank you, thank you. We made a big adventure of this,” Bass said. “The first day, we went to Pony Creek rock hunting, then cleaned and dried them. The next day, we painted and decorated them and left them to dry. The third day, we hid them around town. Three days of fun!”
Everhart said she is amazed by the people who have participated in Sabetha Rocks and those who are hosting rock painting parties.
“I think it’s amazing that people take time out of their day to get with others and support something to promote encouragement, love and kindness,” she said.
“It really brings out the kid in you,” Everhart said, noting that both young and old enjoy finding the rocks and re-hiding them.
Last week, Sabetha Manor helped their residents paint rocks and hide them.
Area churches also have painted rocks during Sunday School. At First United Methodist Church, Barb Payne’s third- through fifth-grade Sunday School class painted and hid rocks during their class.
“I think this brings such positivity to our community,” Payne said. “It’s so fun to take your kids out and search for rocks of all colors and sizes. It’s good, wholesome fun!”
On Saturday, Aug. 3, many individuals took part in the free rock painting event hosted by Sabetha High School art instructor Connie Herbster at her art studio — “The Art Room.” Anyone was welcome to bring rocks and use her supplies to paint.
For others who want to join in on the fun, Andee Rettele and Kim Aberle, owners of Mary Bell Shop and Joy Pop Print Shop, respectively, are offering free rock painting in front of their shops during Old Time Saturday Night on Saturday, Aug. 17.
Sabetha Rocks compliments Sabetha Elementary School’s initiative — “The Great Kindness Challenge” — held in early February for the past three years. During “Kindness Week,” students are encouraged to perform kind deeds and write an essay nominating a “Kindest Citizen.”
“I am really excited to see the community’s enthusiasm for this activity, most especially in our elementary school youth,” said SES Principal Sara Toedman. “It is an engaging opportunity that supports the message that we are focused on promoting at SES through our Great Kindness Challenge: demonstrating positivity and performing kind acts are fundamentally important to the building of strong relationships and social-emotional growth.”
Toedman added that one of the best parts of Sabetha Rocks is that it is inclusive for all community members.
“Everyone has the ability to make someone’s day a little more enjoyable through their participation,” she said.
Everhart said the joy Sabetha Rocks is bringing to people reminds her of one of her favorite movie quotes from Hacksaw Ridge, “With the world so set on tearing itself apart, it don’t seem like such a bad thing to me to want to put a little bit of it back together.”
“It speaks volumes that something so small has such a big impact,” Everhart said. “There’s too much negativity, and nobody needs that. We need something positive — even if it is something simple.”
Painting & Hiding
The best type of paint to use on the rocks is acrylic. Then, spray the rocks with a clear coat so the designs last longer. Additionally, some people have used acrylic paint pens to write words or messages on the rocks.
As for what to paint, the possibilities are endless — it’s all the artist’s choice. Some rocks are just colorfully painted. Others are more intricate with special designs. Some just have words — positive, uplifting messages.
Everhart said she and her daughter get many of their ideas from Pinterest or just by doing a Google search.
Once rocks have been painted, they can be hidden in any outdoor public space.
Some popular places include parks, outside businesses, on window ledges, in rock landscaping and beside trees.
Rock Scavenger Hunt
Because the Facebook page reached 500 members, Everhart is arranging a scavenger hunt that will begin Wednesday, Aug. 7. Seven rocks will be hidden somewhere in Sabetha.
When you find the rocks, bring them into City Hall and leave your name and phone number.
Once all seven rocks have been located, Everhart will draw for a $20 gift card to Downtown Coffee.
In November 2018, Everhart and her daughter Bella moved to Sabetha from Prattville, Ala. Everhart moved to Sabetha to be closer to family.
She works at the Hiawatha Community Hospital. Her daughter, Bella, will be in fourth grade at Sabetha Elementary School.