The Kindness Rocks Project began in 2014 when a life coach named Megan Murphy began randomly placing around the beaches of Cape Cod, Mass. rocks that had been painted with inspirational quotes and sayings. Three years later, Murphy has inspired groups across the country to emulate her, and random acts of kindness have become a national movement.

The Kindness Rocks Project has spread to central Illinois, with Vinyl Art Studio director Cindy Bonnette and Pekin Academy of Fine Arts director Shannon Cox teaming up this year to form the Pekin Kindness Rocks Project.

“Cindy found out about the Kindness Rocks Project, and we met and talked about starting up a project here,” said Cox. “We agreed it would be a great idea, and Cindy was kind enough to sponsor the program.”

“It’s just a way to bring the community together and make people smile,” said Bonnette.

Since May, Cox and Bonnette have been appearing at events including this year’s Ignite Peoria art show and the Marigold Festival in Pekin with a supply of pre-painted rocks, Sharpie pens, and markers, paint and design books. They distribute the rocks to everyone who asks for one and encourage individual creativity in adding designs or messages.

“The kids love it,” Cox said. “Adults love it, too. At Ignite Peoria, we had a constant flow of people doing them. It gets people out of the house, and families get together to find the painted rocks. All our rocks are marked with our hashtag #PekinPKR. When people find them, they post pictures of them on our Facebook page, then hide them again for someone else to find.”

“Our Pekin Kindness Rocks have begun traveling across the country,” said Bonnette. “People who are here on vacation from other states have found some of our rocks, taken them home and hidden them there.”

The Pekin Kindness Rocks Project is not the only community goodwill effort of its kind in the area. Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford counties have joined forces to force a tri-county Kindness Rocks Project, and the members of Rockin Pekin has engaged in the same mission. Cox and Bonnette welcome the presence of these groups for the simple reason that there cannot be too many people spreading positive messages.

“It’s also fun for the people who find the rocks to track down which group hid them,” said Bonnette.

“The purpose of a Kindness Rocks Project is just to spread kindness,” said Cox. “We just hope that, through one random act at a time, we can make someone’s day a little brighter.”

Both Bonnette and Cox are mindful of the fact that an improperly hidden Kindness Rock can become a problem rather than the act of benevolence it was intended to be. Accordingly, they always provide their stone-bearing ambassadors with a list of precautions against hiding rocks in places of business, baseball diamonds or in the potential path of lawnmowers.

“We believe in safe, responsible rock-hiding,” said Bonnette.

The stone was perhaps mankind’s first weapon. Because of advances in military technology, rocks have been obsolete in that particular application for thousands of years. But in this technologically advanced age, people across the United States have converted mankind’s earliest weapon into modern-day missives of hope and inspiration.

For more information on the Pekin Kindness Rocks Project, visit the group’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/95691465111
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