Movement to spread kindness throughout Madison spearheaded by Reunion family


A new friendly and kindness-spreading trend is growing more and more in the city of Madison.

If you’ve found a hidden, painted rock somewhere in the city, you’ve probably heard of the movement called Madison MS Rocks.

The premise is someone paints a rock with an inspirational message on it. The person who finds it is supposed to hide it for someone else to find or keep it and paint another one.

The project started small and the inspiration came from different locations throughout the nation that were already taking part.

Reunion resident Leah Newport Stayer and another Madison resident, Denee` Noland Cannon, began the idea on the Northside. “We’ve lived many different places, but the place where the idea came from is Brownsburg, Ind.,” Leah said. “It was on their Facebook page. I was still hooked up to their community happenings, and they do ‘Brownsburg Rocks’ as well.”

Leah and her husband, Scott, moved to Madison from Indiana for the first time in 2010 with their children Rachel (9) and Ryan (11). After two years, the family relocated because of Scott’s job as a district sales manager for Eli Lilly and Co. Leah is an educational consultant for Curriculum Associates.

In 2015, the Stayers, originally from Indianapolis, chose to move back to Madison.

 This past winter, Leah saw the Brownsburg Rocks Facebook page, and thought it would be a great way to build the community here in Madison.

“I always say (that) I don’t have any original ideas, but I certainly know a good idea when I see one, and I said, ‘You know what? That would be such a fun thing for the kids to do this summer.’ ”

Leah jumped on the idea as soon as Rachel and Ryan got out of school in May.

“I thought that was better than screen time and everything.”

Leah and her children got their neighbors involved and held a painting party. About 12 people participated. Everyone created about 35 rocks over the course of two weeks.

“They were all coming in and out. Over just like a couple weeks, we had a table set up in our garage... Whenever people were over they would just paint a rock...”

Leah, Ryan and Rachel went out and started hiding them.

“We hid some at Corner Bakery and Liberty Park and Chick-fil-A,” Rachel said. Now that school is back in session, Leah said students have been finding them on Madison campuses as well.


The same day the Stayer family was hiding rocks, Leah received a message from Denee`.

“The day we were out physically hiding them, another mom Facebook-messaged me, and she said, ‘Oh my gosh,

See Madison Rocks, Page 8A

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we just moved here… We are painting rocks right now… We participated in other areas and loved it.”

Denee` tried to start a Facebook page, but found that Leah had already started one with a hashtag: #MadisonMSrocks.

“My family and I temporarily lived in St. Simons Island earlier this year, and this ‘game’ is really big over there,” Denee` said. “I had never heard of painting rocks before we were in St. Simons Island, but we had such a good time participating in it … My son, Carter (6), loved it so much, he asked me to start it going when we got back to Madison.”

Denee` started a Facebook page as well, and even had local organizations called Rhea Lana’s and Macaroni Kid sponsor a rock painting party to kick off the project.

“That’s when we realized there was more than one Facebook page for rock painting in our area, so we joined forces with Leah… We just wanted to make it a successful, community-wide game.”

When Denee` reached out to Leah, she said she didn’t want to make it a competition.

Leah said other organizations are now having painting parties.

“It took off sort of mid-summer, (and) I noticed there were 600 (Facebook page members), and now there’s over 2,000, I think. So, it’s really picked up.”


When a rock is found, the seeker is supposed to take a picture with it and post it to the Facebook page before re-hiding it.

“And you don’t have to, but you can start painting rocks yourself when you find one,” Rachel said.

“You can keep it or re-hide it, but if you keep it, the idea is that you might eventually paint your own and hide it so other people can find it,” Leah added. “Sometimes people will take a picture of one and put a clue next to them, like, ‘You’ll find this one by…’ somewhere.”

Businesses have also been known to offer discounts by posting clues for rocks near their store.

“So, that’s a fun way for businesses to get involved as well,” Leah said.

The trend has grown so much that Leah said her family has even found a MadisonMSrock while on vacation in Biloxi.

To get the right rocks in the beginning of the Stayers’ endeavor, Leah said the family had to visit four stores to find rocks that were big enough to paint.

“We wanted the big landscaping rocks so we could write bigger messages on them and be able to write ‘MadisonMSrocks’ on it,” Leah said. “It has to be big enough to be able to write that so there are landscaping rocks you have to get.”

Almost any medium can be used. The Stayers have used anything from paint pens to acrylic to modge podge and sharpie.

Since the beginnings of the project, the Facebook page has more than 2,000 members, and Rachel and Ryan have found at least 50. They’ve painted at least 30 rocks each to go hide throughout the city.

“Her cheer squad painted rocks,” Leah said.

Even classes at Madison Station, where Rachel attends school as a fourth-grader, have been involved. Ryan attends New Summit and is in fifth grade.

To get involved with the project through Facebook, visit the MadisonMSrocks page and request to be a member.

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