Messages of hope, joy have Highlands Ranch rockin'

Residents bring positivity to the community through painted stones

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John Jazwa was walking his dog on a recent day near the Highlands Ranch Mansion when he stumbled upon a small rock with the word "Trust" painted on it. The message was fitting for that point in time.

"I was having a rough day and saw that rock," Jazwa said. "It was like a divine intervention."

Jazwa is one of many Highlands Ranch residents who, over the past two weeks, have spotted painted rocks with inspirational messages or playful images hidden around the community.

Suzanne Gentry, the resident who started the trend, was visiting Texas with her family last year when her 15-year-old son found a small colored rock in an outdoor mall. The back of the rock read "Keep or rehide." So her son kept it.

After doing some research, Gentry found that the rock was part of a trend storming cities across the country, in which people paint rocks with encouraging words, colorful animals and other imagery, then hide them to be found by others in the hopes of spreading a little joy.

Martha Stewart Living, a lifestyle magazine and television brand, calls the phenomenon a "nationwide scavenger hunt meant to promote positivity and kindness." About 500 rock-painting groups are scattered across the country.

And now, Gentry is bringing the activity to Highlands Ranch.

"The main thing is to brighten someone's day," she said.

Gentry, a mother of two boys, started a Facebook page called Highlands Ranch Rocks about two weeks ago. The goal is for members to post photos and locations of the rocks that they find around the community - in parks, along sidewalks, in parking lots.

Gentry buys her white pebble-like rocks at Home Depot. She encourages anyone who participates to write "Highlands Ranch Rocks" and "Keep, leave or rehide" on the back.

Residents are taking a liking to the trend.

The Facebook page, which has about 190 members, is growing every day. Members post photos of the rocks they have painted, which are decorated with everything from paint splats to intricate animals. Some people post on the page to express their excitement of finding a colorful rock.

"My new hobby is painting rocks with my daughter and sipping on a glass of wine," resident Lindsay Mayhall wrote on the page.

Mayhall, who has two young daughters, spends about four nights a week painting rocks. When she and her girls are out walking, she places the rocks in places that other residents will see, such as Redstone Park. The activity is now a family affair that happens around the dining table.

Mayhall hopes that the rock-hiding activity has a deeper impact on community residents.

"You have no idea what someone is going through," she said. "This is a way to possibly bring up someone's spirits."

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