Group Spreads Kind Messages With Painted Rocks
Writer / Tyrel Kessinger
When Helen Wray moved from Washington State to the east end of Louisville four years ago she brought her desire to help people with her. It wasn’t long before she found a perfect outlet for her passion: painted hope rocks. So she founded a painted rock group on Facebook, 502Rocks! and watched it blossom.
In this, Wray saw a chance to both support her community and to provide other people an easily accessible opportunity to give that support to those who need it.
“The painted rock movement is huge on the West Coast,” Wray says. Though, ironically, she didn’t first encounter the idea until after she moved to Kentucky.
“I knew about these painted rock groups. It’s huge on the West Coast, especially in Washington,” she says. “I saw my friends were posting stuff about the painted rock movement on Facebook and I was like ‘what in the heck is that, how are they finding these painted rocks?’ I knew I had to do one of these groups in Louisville. I saw there was a huge opportunity to love on people and also put creative energy into something unconventional but that could be picked up by anybody.”
While Wray may have started and popularized 502Rocks! and disseminate the philosophy behind it, she’s not in it for the accolades. She’s simply interested in helping people any way she can and she’s not concerned with who’s doing the help as long as someone is.
“I want to focus on what we have been doing,” she says. “I think we’ve done a good job loving on our community and really being selfless and showing that anybody can join in on it and they can hide, if that was all they wanted to do, but there is so much opportunity to bring a true smile and joy to people who may really need it.”
Random kindness can mean a great deal to someone who needs it and Wray knows this firsthand. It’s another reason she felt the need to create 502Rocks! As someone who struggled with postpartum depression, Wray understands how hard people in similar situations look for help wherever they can get it.
“I’m kind of creative by nature and one of the suggestions to me was to find something creative to do,” Wray says. “I painted rocks about that [the postpartum depression] and put it out there so that someone could find me and talk to me about it if they needed to. I needed all the lifelines and voices I could get in that time so if I could be that for someone else, my job is done. That was really helpful for me. To paint and get my mind on something positive and productive. Thankfully, I don’t struggle with that anymore and that was something I really did get out of it.”
These painted rocks can and have been found by anyone, but Wray and her group tend to focus on areas where a little ray of hope can spread a bit more light.
“We focus on cancer patients,” she says. “We paint uplifting, positive things. Like ‘hope’ and ‘unwavering’ and ‘courage.’ We focus on rehab clinics and addiction centers too, places where we can have the most impact.”
Perhaps the most attractive aspect of 502Rocks! and similar groups is that anyone anywhere can do it. All it takes is a little paint, some rocks and the desire to “put something good out in the world,” as Wray puts it.
“At first we did painting parties every month or two and just opened it up to the members,” she says. “It’s totally free and open, it’s member run. Now group members take it and run with it and we love that. We’re up to 8,800 members now so there are plenty of options.”
And if you’re interested in helping but don’t know where to begin, Wray suggests the 502Rocks! FaceBook page.
“It’s the best resource,” she says. “It has all about where the rocks are being hidden, where the painting parties are and any events happening. It allows members to stay connected with each other. I’ve seen so many people posting about how this has helped them take their minds off things or help them deal with stress or anxiety in their life and that it’s helped them have something positive and productive to do.” Wray and 502Rocks! also advocates buying supplies locally.
“We love to support local businesses, like Preston Arts Center, which is where I go to get my painting supplies,” Wray says. “And Crane Hearthscape in Crestwood is another place. They have amazing rocks. We really like to push keeping it local, both in where we hide the rocks and where we go to get our supplies.”
Ultimately, Wray simply enjoys giving to others without expecting something in return. “Sometimes finders don’t have access to social media and can’t thank whoever hid the rock,” she says. “But the goal of 502Rocks isn’t of recognition or being thanked, it’s simply to make others happy.
“I love seeing families coming together and painting and families looking for these rocks,” Wray adds. “I love bringing people together. Especially, in this cultural climate. I think it’s really important. I think it’s necessary to put differences aside and come together for something positive, as light-hearted and childish as it is, I’ve met people I know I wouldn’t have met otherwise because we are different. That’s a blessing to me.”