FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Followers of the Facebook group Fort Wayne Rocks are growing by the day, and its uplifting message is a big reason why. The backstory of the family behind the group and the teacher that helped inspire it is what makes Fort Wayne Rocks Positively Fort Wayne!
Kristy Keener of Leo says it’s unbelievable how the group has grown in about four years. “We just thought we were doing this little thing to spread some joy and now we have almost 15,000 followers.”
The concept of Fort Wayne Rocks is simple. Find a rock. Take a picture. Post it to the page and hide it again. Kristy, her husband Andrew, and their two kids Grace and Brady were on a family vacation to Punta Gorda, Florida about five years ago when then three-year-old Brady picked up a rock at a Farmer’s Market. Kristy’s mom instincts took over and told him to put it down, but she says her mother-in-law said “No, no. This is something we do here.”
Now seven, Brady doesn’t remember that, but his big sister Grace, now a sophomore at Leo High School sure does. “At the time I was at Leo Elementary. My fifth-grade teacher was Mrs. Moher. She had a really big impact on me and really helped me grow in learning.” Jody Moher remembers Grace well. “She was a go-getter. She was thoughtful and wanted to make sure things were done correctly.” Moher says if she needed a kid to get a group moving, Grace would take the lead and do that. “As a teacher, you get connected with your kids.” Moher gets choked up and smiles as she says “They’re your family. So every year I challenge them to go out and be awesome. Be good.”
Grace, who finds a lot of joy in art, took the project to heart. “The idea of bringing positive thinking and joy to the world in a creative way is amazing.” Mom, Kristy says her daughter came home and told her “this is it.” She remembered the feeling when her little brother found the rock in Florida and wanted to share that with her community. The Keeners researched to see if anything like it was being done in Fort Wayne, and it wasn’t. Just like that, a Keener family project was born. Proud dad Andrew says “We went and hid some rocks. Took some photos and just shared it with a few friends.” About six months later he says “It started to take off.”
What started small, has now started to grow. Fort Wayne Rocks have spread all over the country and posted to the page. Many include positive messages of hope and encouragement. Some are so intricately painted they are a true piece of art. Kristy says seeing the smiling kids on the page gets her emotional every time. “Their faces light up!” Kristy is also moved by the stories of people who find the rocks “at the right time” during a difficult period in their life. A quick scroll through the page and you’ll find many instances where a rock was found and it took on special meaning. Kristy understands. She’s a nurse at Parkview Regional Medical Center. “During this pandemic, we’ve had some rough times working at the hospital.” One day on her way into work, Kristy found a rock that said “Joy”. She picked it up and shared it with her co-workers. “It really did bring joy to the rest of us out there. We posted it online and it was a great feeling to bring a little bit of happiness during some dark times.”
Kristy says the project is a great, wholesome family time where everyone can be together in a positive way. Grace, now 16, says it’s an opportunity to catch up with each other. “We all have really busy schedules so it’s important to find time to spend together. It’s the little things that count in life, and this is something that brings so much joy.” Proud dad Andrew says the seed that was planted by Mrs. Moher had a tremendous impact on his family and the entire community. When told about the impact she had on the Keeners, Jody Moher deflects credit to the Keeners but says “My heart is bursting. I’m an emotional person anyway, but POOF” as she fights back tears. “I’m proud, right? I’m not proud of me. I’m proud that they have taken what we talked about and just ran with it. they have taken it to heart and let their experience build who they are and now they can share their awesomeness with everyone else!”