Lehigh Valley Rocks
In today’s world, spending less time outside and more time attached to electronic devices has become commonplace, but there is one outdoor activity that is gaining popularity and getting people off the couch and out of the house.
Nearly two years ago, Dana Werkheiser, of Northampton, was scrolling through her Facebook news feed and saw that a friend in Texas belonged to a rock-painting group. She and her sister-in-law, Erin Werkheiser, of Whitehall, began reading about The Kindness Rocks Project, the first of its kind, and used it as a model for Lehigh Valley Rocks.
Meghan Murphy started The Kindness Rocks Project in Cape Cod, Mass., in 2016 by leaving several rocks with messages on the beach. She discovered a friend had been cheered up by finding one of these rocks, and she developed the nation’s first rock-painting group.
The Lehigh Valley Rocks Facebook page was created in September of 2016 with the purpose of spreading kindness and encouraging art and outdoor experiences. At last count, it had over 7,800 members, with new requests to join each day.
“There are too many negative things in the world. There’s too many horrible things in the news. Even when you go through Facebook, people are being nasty to each other. It’s nice to just see something that’s happy,” Dana said.
Group members paint rocks either on their own or at rock-painting parties, hide them and search for others. When rocks are found, people are encouraged to post a photograph of the rock to the member page.
To keep their page interactive, the Werkheisers post frequent themed challenges to paint rocks, such as “lots of dots” or “something magical.” They created International Drop a Kindness Rock Day, when members were asked to leave red heart rocks for people to find, and Rock Your Block, when participants decorated their neighborhoods with rocks during the week of Independence Day.
The most popular events held by the group are the painting parties. In addition to several parties at Northampton Area Public Library, they were invited to host a party at the opening of the new Catasauqua Borough Municipal Complex in 2017.
“In Catasauqua, they invited us, bought the supplies and let us keep the leftovers,” Dana said.
“It was neat because you got to meet some of the people from the page,” Erin said.
The Werkheisers usually provide the supplies for the painting parties, and members bring their own rocks. There is never a charge to attend.
“One of the things we try to do is make it all nonprofit,” Erin said.
In addition to socialization, the group promotes artistic ability.
“I like the creativity of it. I teach in public school, and they’re taking the arts away more frequently, so having an extra opportunity to be creative is important,” Dana said.
“We get some really thoughtful rocks that I wouldn’t have thought of, like making them into pizza slices,” Erin said.
From landscapes to dot art and cartoons, the rocks are all creative and unique. A look at the photographs on the group page shows a rock with a flying monkey from “The Wizard of Oz,” the Cheshire cat from “Alice in Wonderland” and a flamingo. One rock says, “Keep calm and rock on.”
“It’s neat because there’s a couple of people that if I looked at a picture of their rock, I’d know it was their rock, because they have a distinct style,” Dana said.
“Some people get really detailed with what they do. We have some really talented members on there,” Erin said.
Member are encouraged to write Lehigh Valley Rocks on the back of their creations.
Some people print out labels with sayings, such as “Find a rock, give a rock.”
The rocks are decorated with acrylic paints, and dotting tools can be used to do intricate patterns like mandalas. A clear waterproof sealant is then sprayed on the rocks after they have dried for 24 hours.
People put a lot of effort into painting pictures or intricate designs and enjoy seeing photographs posted to the group page after they are found. Not everyone who finds the rocks posts them, and some do not have a Facebook account. Finders are also permitted to keep the rocks they find.
“Some people get upset when they never see them again, but once you put the rock out into the world, it no longer belongs to you. As much as you want people to post things, it doesn’t always happen. Every once in a while, a rock will show up a year later, so you never know if people have it for a long time,” Dana said.
Some of the most popular places to find rocks are in the Whitehall, Coplay, Northampton and Catasauqua areas.
“There’s a lot that you see posted on the Ironton Rail Trail,” Dana said.
“The Northampton library actually has a lot of rocks,” she added.
Rocks are commonly found in popular recreational areas, like the North Catasauqua William J. Albert Memorial Park, and outside of businesses, such as Walmart, Weis and the Lehigh Valley Mall, in Whitehall.
As with any group, there are a few ground rules. Rock art must be family-friendly, and rocks must not be taken from landscaping. They should be placed outside only and never in businesses. Rocks should not be placed in natural waterways or in state and national parks.
Groups like Lehigh Valley Rocks continue to grow in popularity across the country.
“It’s been in the news. There’s been articles that have come out nationally and locally. The school I teach at — we had all the kids paint rocks. The goal is to create a rock garden at our school,” Dana said.
“My whole thing is just having a positive place to see artwork,” she said.
Erin, a nanny, feels the best part about Lehigh Valley Rocks is the way it brings families together while giving children something interesting to do on a walk.
“Kids love scavenger hunts,” she said.
Participating in the group is not just enjoyable for children.
“We get some adults who don’t have kids who go out and like to paint rocks and put them out there and find some every now and then. We have full families that go out, and grandparents who go out with their grandchildren,” Erin said.
The sisters-in-law are still amazed how quickly the number of group members is rising.
“We didn’t think that it would go this far, turn into such a big thing,” Erin said.
Lehigh Valley Rocks is averaging 100 new members a week, and support for the group is only going up.
The group can be found by searching Lehigh Valley Rocks on Facebook.