Spreading kindness, one rock at a time

Shannon CareyFountain City

Drop by the FtnCityKnoxRocks Facebook group and you’ll see the messages, folks finding a fun or inspirational surprise in an unexpected place.


“I needed this so much today.”

“My kids were so excited to find this rock!”

“This made me smile.”

And that, according to FtnCityKnoxRocks founder Cindi Read, is what it’s all about.

Tony Read sits with wife Cindi Read, founder of FtnCityKnoxRocks, in the pavilion at Fountain City Park.

Cindi and her husband, Tony, moved to the Fountain City area just three years ago. Cindi is originally from Ohio, and Tony hails from the United Kingdom. They settled in Florida first before fleeing the heat and coming to East Tennessee. Cindi heard about The Kindness Rocks Project from her sister and daughter, both of whom live in Florida. Cindi and Tony are both retired and volunteer their time to shuttle rescue dogs to their foster or forever homes. Cindi took up the rock project as well.

The concept is simple. Paint a rock with a cheerful picture or inspirational phrase, then leave it somewhere for people to find, often when and where they need it most. When Cindi got started there was already a KnoxRocks group, so she decided to take it a step smaller and founded FtnCityKnoxRocks in April. Each FtnCityKnoxRocks rock has a label on the back asking the finder to post a picture to the Facebook group. Through social media sharing, the group now has almost 1,800 members and six spin-off groups in communities like Halls, Powell and Gibbs.

“It’s not about the numbers, but I can’t believe this has grown so quickly,” said Cindi. “I have met, virtually, some very, very nice people. It’s just the kindness aspect, and it’s such a simple thing.”

Cindi has painted 300 rocks, and she and some other rock painters are also lending their efforts to community projects. She keeps two sets of rocks, one with inspirational messages and another with fun, cheerful images for kids. She keeps a notebook handy to jot down sayings that would go well on the Kindness rocks, too. She leaves the rocks where people who need a pick-me-up might find them.

One of Cindi’s rocks was found at a Florida Dunkin Donuts by a woman who had been having a terrible work week. The rock said, “Don’t stress. Do your best. Forget the rest.”

“She said, ‘That rock just lifted me up and made me smile,'” said Cindi.

Another FtnCityKnoxRocks member left some rocks in the UT Medical Center emergency room. They were found by a woman who had cancer.

Some of Cindi Read’s fun and inspirational painted rocks

“Her daughter posted the rocks and said, ‘I never thought I’d see my mother smile again.'”

Cindi said anyone, kids or adults, can paint rocks.

“This isn’t about artistic ability,” she said. “They put their heart on that rock, and they’re sharing their heart with someone else. Our world is full of hurtful things right now. We need some kindness. You have to do something to make things better.”

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