Garden ‘rocks’ with patriotic spirit

Burrillville group holds contest for 4th of July.

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BURRILLVILLE – An international movement to spread kindness with the help of a little art has taken a unique turn in Burrillville, with a nearly 2,000 member group showing their patriotism through an ongoing memorial.

The rock garden at 1183 Victory Highway in Oakland holds hundreds of painted stones, along with flags, lighting, signs and spotlights, and it continues to grow with the “Burrillville Rocks” group’s latest 4th of July-themed contest.

Roger Bourbonniere started the Facebook group in August of 2017 after he found an inspirational rock at Misquamicut Beach in Westerly, hidden as part on the “Kindness Rocks” project aimed at spreading positive energy via hand-painted stones. Bourbonniere says he found the message painted on his find “Cherish every moment,” to be very meaningful. Ultimately, he met the mother and son who had left it there.

The movement was started several years ago by Meghan Murphy, who, according to the Kindness Rocks website, would walk the beaches and dunes of Cape Cod as a way to ground herself and find inspiration.

Murphy says she began anonymously writing messages for others to find on random rocks, and saw her idea quickly grow in popularity.

Now, in addition to inspirational stones scattered across the United States, “Kindness Rocks” gardens have sprouted up in at least seven countries.

The idea is simple: Participants find a rock and paint it with something they think will make a person smile – preferably followed by a sealer for weather-proofing. Phrases on the rocks vary from small pictures and favorite quotes to short, positive messages such as “be kind,” or “never give up.”

Typically, the rocks are hidden, and many groups add identifiers such as “South County Rocks” on the back, asking finders to post a picture, so that Facebook fans can follow the stones as they travel. Finders either hide the rocks again or keep them if they find the message particularly meaningful.

The gardens, meanwhile, have become community projects, not only adding color and life to local parks and hiking trails, but also recruiting more participants, with signs instructing guests to pay it forward.

Bourbonniere formed the town’s first community rock garden at his home with help from resident Phyllis Griffith and others.

It has now grown to include five different sections including a fairy garden, a pet memorial garden, a memorial garden for loved ones who have passed, and an area filled with white stones where visitors are invited to “take a rock, leave a rock.”

But Bourbonniere says the group is most proud of the patriotic garden, started to celebrate local members of the armed forces on Memorial Day Weekend. The response, he says, was “overwhelming.”

“Its connected our community like nothing before,” he said. 

The group – which as of Thursday, June 28, had 1,929 members – is very active, with residents of all ages posting pictures of stones found at locations across town and beyond.

They held a contest challenging members to paint patriotic rocks for Memorial Day, and they’re holding another for the 4th of July. The winner’s rock will be featured as the cover photo on the Burrillville Rocks Facebook page.

“Members just keep adding rocks to the garden, and at night, it is all lit up,” Bourbboniere said.

Join in the fun at Burrillville Rocks or bring your latest creations to 1183 Victory Highway.