Rocking out in Prineville
Maybe you've seen them hidden in nooks and crannies around town — smooth stones colorfully painted or bearing a cheerful message.
Those painted rocks are part of a national movement to spread kindness in a sometimes unkind world.
"Basically, it's a random act of kindness," says Prineville "rocks" founder and administrator Terry Ortloff, who encourages locals to participate in the Rocktober Anti-Bullying Campaign to help spread anti-bullying messages to children.
The Kindness Rocks Project began a few years ago when a woman took walks on the beach to think of her deceased parents. One day, she was inspired to write encouraging messages on a few stones and leave them for others to find.
Her good friend found one of her rocks and sent her a photo, telling her the message was just what she needed that day. The Kindness Rocks Project was born, and now has spread from coast to coast, community to community, with the pursuit of inspiring others through small acts of kindness.
The plan is simple — those wanting to spread kindness paint colorful pictures or cheerful messages on smooth stones and hide them in safe public areas for others to find. Those who find the stones may either keep them or rehide them and are asked to take a photo of the rock and post it to the Facebook page.
"I had a minor heart attack a few months ago," Ortloff says. "So this started out as therapy for me."
Ortloff has lived in Prineville for 34 years and has two grown children and six grandchildren. She worked at a local mill and in senior facilities as a nurse's aide.
"Kids and seniors are my soft spot," she says. "I'm passionate about anything to do with kids."
She first heard about The Kindness Rocks Project through her daughter, who is part of the Beaverton Rocks Facebook group.
Ortloff began painting rocks in May, even though she says she's never taken an art class and jokes that she couldn't even draw a straight line. She gets many of her ideas from Pinterest, and she bought 100 pounds of rocks from a landscaping company in Beaverton. She applies a coat of acrylic paint before adding the artwork or message with acrylic paints and paint pens. She then applies Mod Podge and finishes each stone with an acrylic sealer gloss finish. The back of each rock contains a label with directions to keep or rehide the rock, take a photo and post it to the Facebook Prineville "rocks" group.
"When I first started this it was just me, and I was just painting rocks," she says.
She would leave the kid-theme rocks at play areas and along the walking path.
"It forced me to get out and get some exercise, which the doctor wanted," Ortloff says. "Then, I would sit back, and I'd watch people find them — and man — the smiles on the kids' faces!"
She started the Prineville "rocks" Facebook group and invited locals to join the movement, explaining the joy she had from painting and hiding rocks around town. The group has grown to nearly 1,400 members.
Ortloff learned that October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and with such a large membership, she decided to run with it, starting the Rocktober Anti-Bullying Campaign this week.
"This is geared more toward the kids and bringing their awareness of anti-bullying," she explained.
She encourages people to write anti-bullying messages on rocks, take them to one of the safe child-friendly zones in the community, take a picture, send the picture to her through Messenger, and she will add it to the Google Maps Kindness Rocks site — helping to get out the message that bullying is not OK.
Near the front doors of the Prineville Police Station is one such designated safe location to place the anti-bullying rocks for now, although more spots will be listed on the website as they become available.
"There were many reasons I thought being a part of this would benefit our community, but awareness to the issue is the most important and getting the local police department more involved with our community is always a plus," said Prineville Police Captain Larry Seymour.
He said they have a good crowd base that follows their Facebook page, and combining the growing rock hunting craze with their Facebook page would be a good way to promote an issue that doesn't get a lot of attention.
"Anti-bullying has become an ever-growing topic amongst issues with our youth and their development," Seymour said. "Bullying leaves an emotional and sometimes physical scar on kids around the world, which many times goes unreported. Many times kids aren't sure what to do with emotional bullying and they keep it inside which causes sometimes long-term developmental issues."
He said the police department's role in the partnership is to promote the topic and use the rock finding as a better way to get children involved and teach children about bullying while they have fun hunting for rocks.
Ortloff has also approached the middle and elementary schools about the anti-bullying campaign, and they plan to incorporate the message and rock painting into their lessons.
She is also planning a Halloween Paint Party for kids from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14 at Ochoco Creek Park, which is a chance for people to learn about the movement, paint some rocks, and then join a Halloween rock hunt.
"We supply everything. They just have to show up with their smiles," Ortloff said.
Founder and administrator: Terry Ortloff
Visit the Facebook group
Halloween Paint Party: 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14 at Ochoco Creek Park