By Jenna Lennon
Denise Allicino has started a movement with the hopes of spreading positivity in her hometown and beyond — simply by scattering decorated rocks around several local parks and public places.
The East Setauket resident and her family along with members of her Facebook groups, “Suffolk County Rocks” and “Nassau County Rocks,” decorate and hide rocks with positive messages on them to be found and kept or hidden again for future finders. Rocks have been spotted in local parks such as Avalon Park and Preserve in Stony Brook and Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve in Commack.
The idea for this “pay it forward type movement” came about when Allicino’s cousin visited from Florida.
“We had some rocks laying around, and I saw online some people were also painting rocks, and I thought it’d be a cute little thing,” Allicino said. “I’m actually a graphic designer so I always have to have some sort of creative outlet. So it was a rainy day, she was visiting me. It was a perfect opportunity. I had my two girls with me, and we decided to paint some rocks.”
A few months later, her cousin messaged her.
“She goes ‘you’re not going to believe this: people are hiding rocks all over the place,’” Allicino said.
Her cousin mentioned a Facebook group in her area dedicated to painting and hiding rocks with over 10,000 members. Allicino decided to try and bring a similar group to Long Island.
What started with just 80 members back in March has quickly grown to a combined nearly 800 members.
“People have kind of just taken it and ran with it,” Allicino said. “They’re painting their own rocks, they’re hiding them, and that’s it. It’s just going on its own, it has its own momentum, and it’s just gaining speed.”
Painters are encouraged to include instructions on the back of the rock such as the name of the Facebook page, so people know where to post pictures, and what to do with a rock after it’s found. It is up to the finder whether they wish to keep it or re-hide it.
But Allicino only has one real rule: keep it positive.
“I think that’s what everyone likes about it is that it’s just so uplifting, just something good out there in the world for free for no reason,” she said. “Even if people aren’t on social media and don’t post a picture of the rock they find, it doesn’t even matter. The whole point is to just brighten someone’s day, so that’s what we’ve been trying to do, just keep it completely positive.”
Jennifer Fallon began painting rocks after Allicino brought a rock-painting event to their daughters’ religion group at St. James Roman Catholic Church. Since then, Fallon has participated in six different painting sessions and hiding in the community.
“It’s unexpected first of all,” Fallon said. “And then when you turn the rock over and you’re directed to the Facebook page you see that other people are painting rocks and enjoying them and spreading good messages to other people, I think it brings people together.”
Other rock-painting events include Setauket Elementary School’s Spring Fling and several Girl Scout Troop meetings.
Shawn Patrick and his two nieces first went rock hunting at a local beach about six months ago.
“Then we went to Michaels and bought the paints and got to it,” Patrick said in an email statement. “It was really a nice day. Without cell phones, iPads, etc., and the kids loved it. I mean it took up the whole day.”
Patrick said he appreciated the simplicity of the craft.
“It’s really something that gives a nod to simpler times,” he said. “And now it’s spread all over. And it’s something you can do all the time and spend quality time with the kids. I think that’s why it’s spreading so fast. It’s like one of the few things that kids seem to like to do with family without being distracted.”
Allicino said there were many benefits for children when it comes to the movement.
“There’s nothing bad about it,” Allicino said. “They’re out there running, they’re getting exercise, and it’s community service, so now they’re also giving to the community.”
Allicino continued, “That was one of my main things was getting my kids active in it too and teaching them to give back. Whether they get a picture posted on Facebook or not, they get a lot out of it.”