What started as an opportunity for summer youth volunteers and VA staff at the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center to take a break and paint a rock for a Veteran has exploded with igneous support from the Oklahoma City community.
With its Kindness Rocks project, the staff of the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center began by hiding rocks around the hospital – indoors and outside – for Veterans, family members, and visitors to find, like an Easter Egg hunt. All of the rocks painted at the VA had a small sticker on the back that said, “One message at just the right moment can change your entire day … outlook…life. Take, share or leave to inspire another. – Your Oklahoma City VA Health Care System Team.”
After several weeks, the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center decided to create a “rock garden” at the main hospital entrance so it was more visible and a nice way to welcome people to the facility. Upon seeing the new Kindness Rock Garden, one visitor decided to support the project. An active member of several Facebook groups for rock painting, she began posting about the rocks as she was leaving the VA. Soon the word spread. More members of the community – both adults and children – were sharing photos of the rocks they painted and placing them in the hospital’s Rock Garden. Some rocks are patriotic, some have inspirational messages, and some are just fun and whimsical.
Now, the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center receives a bunch of rocks from community members almost daily. And without fail, by the end of every day, the Rock Garden is empty. Since the project began this past June, the public affairs officer estimates the hospital has distributed more than 500 Kindness Rocks. `The Oklahoma City VA Medical Center has also received amazing feedback from Veterans and visitors:
“My brother has been in the VA hospital for three weeks. The Kindness Project has been a powerful source of cheerfulness and inspiration for my family and me as we’ve visited. My sister and I have discovered a new hobby as has my niece and her daughter. And my brother likes to walk to us out so we can all go by the garden to see the rocks. We get excited every time we see new ones. The rocks are a small gesture that helps in immense ways.”
“To everyone who’s painted, thank you so much. And to the VA who started the Kindness Rocks Project, keep up the good work. We appreciate all of you!!!”
“I spend a lot of time at the main campus and it’s rewarding, therapeutic, and fun to leave the rocks for other vets. Thanks to everyone that is in this group for what you do, I appreciate it.”
“There’s just not enough rocks in the world to keep up with the need to bring positivity, happiness, and kindness to those who work, visit, or stay at the VA. But every little bit brings light to someone new. And that’s so important. Heartfelt thanks to you.”
Stacy Rine has served as the Public Affairs Officer at the Oklahoma City VA Health Care System since 2007. She is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and board certified in public relations from the Public Relations Society of America. Stacy lives in Oklahoma City with her husband Andy, and their two young children, Adam and Alice.