NORMAL — Amid somber news of devastation from hurricanes in the South and wildfires in the West, a group of students wanted to uplift the hearts of the Twin City community this week.
A class of 17 Normal Community High School students used their creativity to paint cheerful images and messages on small rocks which they spread through uptown Normal Tuesday morning.
“At the beginning of the school year we saw an article about the craze of rock hiding and how big it was getting not just locally, but nationally. We used it to teach students the idea of making others happy,” said NCHS teacher Angie Cardiff.
She and NCHS teachers Amy Veselak, Erin Sanders and Sherrie McAndrews decided to include their class in the fun activity.
The rock-hunting hobby is popular with young families and has spread throughout Central Illinois. Anyone can paint and hide a rock to be discovered and rehidden (or kept) by someone else in the community.
Popular hiding locations are in public parks and along walking trails.
“If you can turn one person’s day around by finding these rocks, they will spread the positivity,” said Cardiff.
More than 30 rocks were tucked against window sills and nestled in flowerbeds along the sidewalks of uptown. The group had a laugh when they passed The Rock Restaurant, where they left a few colorful stones.
Junior Aislyn Bossard painted a panda, an emoji and an M&M on her rocks.
“I want this to brighten up someone’s day,” she said.
And so it did.
Shortly after the NCHS class swept through the uptown streets, the Norris family discovered several of the stony treasures.
Lynne Norris of Hudson was leaving a ballet class with her children Vivian, 6, Buddy, 5, and Violet, 2, when they spied and rehid a few rocks.
“Uptown is loaded this morning,” posted Norris on the “McLean Co. Rocks” Facebook page, with a picture of Buddy gleefully showing off his discovery.
Norris said her kids have been rock hunting all summer and are keen to find more any time they are out and about.
The Normal Parks and Recreation Department hosted a rock scavenger hunt over the summer, posting clues of where the stones were hidden and awarding prizes to the families who found them first.
“All of my kids loved finding plain rocks they thought were cool in the first place. When they started finding painted ones, they thought it was even cooler because they were pretty and they realized someone else had painted them and left them for someone to find,” she said.
When she learned of the meaning behind the rocks placed by NCHS students, Norris said, “I think that is such a kind and thoughtful thing to do. I hope that they know that they are achieving their goal of spreading happiness.”
The remaining rocks designed by the class were given to Normal-based Midwest Food Bank to be packed among the disaster relief boxes which will be shipped to survivors of hurricanes Irma and Harvey.
“I hope when people see them, they think happy thoughts and it brings them joy,” said sophomore Trevon Davis. “It was super fun painting the rocks. I used black, yellow and gray to paint Batman on one.”
Senior Jamie Fox composed a spaceship on one of his rocks.
“I want people to feel good, not be sad and have fun while they look for the rocks,” he said. “When you’re happy, you feel more relaxed.”