The Genesis of “Knox Rocks” and the Founder of the “Rocks” Movement

By Echo Menges, Reporter for The Edina Sentinel

If you’ve been out and about anywhere in Knox County over the past two-weeks, there’s a good chance you’ve come across one of many “Knox Rocks”.

The newly adopted local project has taken the community by storm and the popularity of painting, hiding and finding “Knox Rocks” throughout Knox County is growing.

The idea to spread joy and inspiration with a simple gesture of painting a rock was adopted from the “Shelby County Rocks” Facebook Group by Knox County resident Candi Harder.

After Harder and her daughters spent a fun afternoon finding painted rocks at a Vacation Bible School hosted in Shelbyville, she and her children started a similar group in Knox County. First, they painted some rocks. Then, she started a “Knox Rocks” Group on Facebook, with the blessing of the “Shelby County Rocks” Group.

Harder’s first post on the group’s page paid homage to the “Shelby County Rocks” Group and laid the ground rules for how to participate.

“Please ALWAYS be considerate of others property and do not hide them inside any business. I also ask that you do not hide rocks in the grass where lawnmowers will hit them or where vehicles could run over them. My girls are excited to spread some joy. Please join in the fun and play safe. Our first 30 rocks will be hidden around Edina tomorrow morning. Feel free to relocate them anywhere in Knox County for others to enjoy. Be sure to post pictures here so we can see!” said Harder in her first Facebook post initiating the Knox Rocks Group on July 26, 2016.

Rocks for Web 1

Since then, hundreds of rocks have been painted and placed all around the county.

It was originally thought the “Rocks” movement began with a Facebook Group called “Love Rocks”.

The “Love Rocks” movement began on April 20, 2014 after two grieving parents decided to share a project they worked on with their two daughters, Anna, 6, and Abigail, 11, before they were killed by a car crash.

“Love Rocks” are decorated with fabric hearts and the movement spread far and wide on Facebook, too, but – it’s not part of the genesis of where “Knox Rocks” came from.

Going back through Facebook posts, contacting the original organizers and determining who started which groups, when they were started, and where their inspiration came from – led this reporter all the way to the State of Washington.

Working backwards and starting here in Knox County, it was quickly determined the “Knox Rocks” Group was inspired by the “Shelby County Rocks” Group, which was inspired by the “JC (Jefferson City) Rocks” Group, which was inspired by the “Lebanon Rocks” Group, which was inspired by the “Bolivar Rocks” Group, which was inspired by the “Port Angeles, Washington Rocks” Group – where it all started – just seven short months ago by a woman named Aisha Lesh.

Fortunately, the “Love Rocks” confusion was a happy and welcome addition to the “Knox Rocks” movement, because people began making “Love Rocks” with fabric hearts, too. Memorial style rocks are also being made and spread throughout the community.

The common thread between all of the Facebook fueled “Rocks” movements is the idea behind them – to spread joy, happiness and love to others. Finding a pretty rock with a funny picture, or maybe an inspirational message, might influence someone’s day for the better. It’s a beautifully simple concept and one that has caught on like wildfire.

The Shelby County Rocks Group began on July 9, 2016.

The JC Rocks Group began on June 17, 2016.

The Lebanon Rocks Group began on June 15, 2016.

The Bolivar Rocks Group began on June 14 2, 2016.

The Port Angeles Washington Rocks group began near the beginning of the year.

The woman who first brought the “Rocks” to Missouri is Susan DeNolf Sparks of Boliver.

“I was told about the Port Angeles, Washington Group in June of this year by a friend in that town. He said it had been going on since January and that I should take a look. I did and loved the outpouring of love and inspiration, random acts of uplifting art, where an entire community was involved in a mobile art movement. I had never seen anything like it and thought it was just what the Midwest/Bolivar needed. So much negativity in the world and here was a way for a community to unite and combat some of it with humble painted rocks. Bolivar embraced the idea quickly. Aisha at Port Angeles freely gave the idea away, and so did I. It’s what it is all about! Many towns contacted me a couple of weeks after it was started and to each we freely shared our files and descriptive of the project,” said Sparks.

The originator in Port Angeles, WA, made sure to leave plenty of room for the movement to grow inviting anyone who wanted to start a “Rocks” group in their towns and counties to go right on ahead.

The biggest “Rocks” group in Missouri, so far, is the “JC Rocks” Group, based in Jefferson City, which has a huge following of well over 11,000 Facebook users. It was started by a woman named Charity Blair.

Rocks for Web 2   “It has taken off and just keeps getting bigger. We are getting ready to hit 12,000 members. And I started this group two-months ago. I think we were the third group in Missouri, I could be wrong, but I definitely think we are the biggest. It has been mind-blowing. And now it’s so much more than just rock painting. Its bringing awareness and raising funds for different charities, bringing the community together, and just spreading simple joy and love!” said Blair.

To those in Knox County, if you find one of the “Knox Rocks” you’re asked to take a picture of it and share it online with the “Knox Rocks” Facebook Group. Feel free to include messages to the other Facebook Groups mentioned in this article. Surely they will love to see what they’ve inspired.

Keeping with the traditions with the “Rocks” movements before us, you’re welcome to keep any rocks you find, and encouraged to replace them with rocks you’ve created yourself – to keep the momentum going. Or, you can hide them in a new location for someone else to find.

To those outside of Knox County who would like to start a “Rocks” movement in your town or county, please visit any of the “Rocks” pages for inspiration. I recommend the “Port Angeles Washington Rocks” Group on Facebook.

Also, as a favor to news reporters everywhere, please include in your group description the history of how you got started and what inspired you to start your group, because this is one of many news stories on the horizon for this movement. Please.

“It is so nice to see the smiling faces and kindness that is being spread throughout our community,” said Harder.

“It is a thing of beauty and has taken on a life of its own,” said Sparks. “Paint a rock and rock on!”

Where it All Started – Meet the Founder of the “Rocks” Movement

Painted rocks are the all the craze in Northeast Missouri and beyond. After a bit of digging around the rock pile, we found the young woman who started it all. She is Aisha Lesh, 27, of Port Angeles, Washington, and her idea has spread all the way to Knox County in the form of the “Knox Rocks” Group on Facebook and the thousands of painted rocks popping up all over Missouri.

According to Lesh, she has been painting on rocks as long as she can remember.

“I started painting rocks when I was a little kid. I got a rock painting kit, the Smithsonian kind, and I used to leave them on trails when I went on hikes. I didn’t know not to leave them at National Parks. We broke that rule on accident. I was really little. I don’t remember (how old I was). Preschool age, I think,” said Lesh.

Lesh won’t take all of the credit for starting the project in her hometown, which is still spreading far beyond anything she could have imagined.

She believes the artists in her community are responsible for the explosion of rock art in Port Angeles. She pointed out she has had several friends involved all along – who share her love of painting rocks, too.

“We were leaving (painted rocks) around town before (starting the Facebook page). And, there was a guy painting rocks with quotes about the earth and uplifting quotes on them and leaving them around town, too. He has trouble sleeping and he puts out a lot. He can do 70 at a time. I didn’t realize how many he had out there until we started the group. He’s a really amazing guy. He prefers to remain anonymous, though,” said Lesh. “We started talking and said, wouldn’t it be cool if we had a way to see who’s finding them? That’s how the Facebook thing got started. We didn’t imagine this was going to happen. It turned into quite the responsibility effort, but it’s still fun.”

At the beginning of the year, Lesh started the first “Rocks” Facebook Page called “Port Angeles Washington Rocks”. Her idea spread to so many places so quickly, she had to recruit more help.

“I had to add two of my friends as moderators on the page. I keep getting calls for interviews. I’ve done over ten. I might have to pass the torch if it gets too crazy. I have anxiety and it might get overwhelming,” said Lesh. “I didn’t do much to get it started. I think it’s because our community is art minded. It just took off. There’s not a lot to do here, either.”

Over the past seven months, Lesh has been watching via Facebook as others have taken her idea, of sharing painted rocks online, and ran with it, including people in our community, which is approximately 1630 miles away.

“All the people who have started one, it’s been really cool to see,” said Lesh. “I don’t like the big ones, statewide, as much as the small community ones. The small town ones are my favorite.”

According to Lesh, the “Rocks” movement in her own community continues to grow.

“We do pop-up table parties and just post on our Facebook page where we are. We write on the back of the rocks and let people paint until we run out of rocks. We got permission from the City Parks Department to do it. Those are a hit. The City has been really supportive. They painted rocks, too, and left clues about where to find them to help raise awareness about local parks,” said Lesh. “I think it’s been so successful because anybody can paint a rock and go put it downtown.”

*These stories printed in the August 10, 2016, edition of The Edina Sentinel.