Rock Star

October 2017 View more

Ann Zedekis (Kindness Rocks) for Naperville Magazine

When her children’s schools let out for summer last May, Ann Zediker’s plans included plenty of family time with her sixth-grade son and two high school-aged daughters, as well as a vacation to Colorado.

She never thought her summer would be filled with … rocks.

Zediker of Naperville has become the local face of an effort begun in 2015 by an East Coast woman named Megan Murphy, who began randomly placing painted rocks on Cape Cod beaches to inspire people.

The Kindness Rocks Project is a giant game of hide-and-seek that uses the power of positive messages to brighten someone’s day. Those who find a rock can choose to keep it, leave it in place or re-hide it for someone else to find.

Zediker, a busy mom who also works part-time jobs in human resources and accounting, wasn’t in need of a summer project to fill her time. But she was
so moved after hearing from a relative about a similar initiative in Elmhurst that she decided to establish a Naperville version.

To bring the project to Naperville, she sought help from longtime friends Anne Wang and Kristen Kucharski, which made taking on the project more doable and fun, she says. The three began by putting together a Kindness Rocks Naperville Facebook page, where community members share design inspiration, post clues about hidden rocks and report finding the stony treasures. Anyone can join the public group, although Zediker must approve each participant who seeks access. As of mid-September, more than 1,100 people had joined.

“All of us were crazy busy, but we really thought this was something that could impact our town,” Zediker says. “When you have the opportunity to affect a thousand people, you find time.”

Zediker also sought approval from the Naperville Park District, realizing that the Riverwalk and Naperville’s 140 parks were prime places for the rock hide-and-seek.

“[She] thought it would be a great project for the community and we agreed that it would be a positive initiative,” says Sameera Luthman, director of marketing for the park district. Luthman OK’d the project and offered tips about the safest places to hide the rocks.

While Zediker doesn’t consider herself especially crafty, she says that’s not the point. “I’m a horrible artist,” she says. “But anyone can do this. There are no specific designs, words or colors you have to use. It’s about brightening someone’s day.”

Memorable participants include officers from the Naperville Police Department, who painted rocks with inspirational messages and crime-prevention strategies and hid them as a team-building exercise, as well as a Naperville girl who made rock painting the theme for her summer birthday party.

Zediker’s family hid rocks on their previously mentioned trip to Colorado, and were amazed when the people who found them went online and joined the Naperville Facebook group.

Through it all, she continues to give—and receive—inspiration from the project. “Kindness is the hardest lesson to teach,” she says.

Set in Stone
Tips for creating and sharing one-of-a-kind designs.

Create your rock. Choose a rock that’s a bit smaller than the palm of your hand. Flat rocks are the easiest to work with, Zediker advises. Rocks can be found outside or purchased at gardening or craft stores. Wash rocks thoroughly and cover with acrylic paint. Decorate using permanent markers, gel pens or metallic accents. A coat of Mod Podge or other varnish helps seal your design.

Find a hiding place. Luthman suggests hiding rocks in planters or garden containers in Naperville parks. Avoid grassy areas, where they could get stuck in mowing equipment.

Connect with others. Write “FB Kindness Rocks Naperville” or “#Kindness Rocks Naperville” to the bottom of your rock, directing finders to go online for more information about the initiative and their rocks. Post clues online or share favorite designs with others.

Kindness Rocks Naperville also partners with local stores, such as Learning Express Toys, Michaels and Pinot’s Palette, to host rock-painting events.