020118 Pawleys Rocks!
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Nancy Crawford at her desk. She started Pawleys Rocks last year.

Pawleys Rocks!

By Emily Topper
Coastal Observer

At first, Belinda Foster thought she had dropped her keys.

She was walking after last month’s winter storm, hoping to see snow on the beach. As she walked along Walkway 66 at Litchfield Beach, her elbow hit something and she heard a clunk.

“I was bundled up like I was in Iceland or Alaska,” Foster said. “I was just being really careful trying to go down the steps. I heard something fall, but I couldn’t see it.”

She looked down and saw a rock in the shape of South Carolina that had fallen directly onto a 2-by-4 on the landing.

“There was a smudged sticker on the back of it,” Foster said. “I couldn’t read anything on the sticker except ‘Pawleys Rocks.’ It was all smudged because it had been raining and snowing. The steps were still icy and people really weren’t getting out too much.”

Foster picked up the rock and turned it over.

“It was beautifully painted and it said, ‘Dream big!’ ” she recalled. “I had heard of rock painting, but I’d never participated or looked for them. I just knew it existed, but that rock put such a big smile on my face.”

The painted rock was one of many that Nancy Crawford, the founder of Pawleys Rocks, has been hiding around the area since July. She first caught on to the trend while living in Pittsburgh.

“I had gone out to see my grandson and I thought, What do you do with a 5-year-old?” said Crawford, who lives in Hagley. “We sat and painted rocks together, and he decorated them.”

Crawford had heard of rock painting groups in Horry County and Georgetown, but hadn’t seen anything in Pawleys. “I wanted to have it here,” she said.

She started a Facebook page, Pawleys Rocks, and began hiding her painted rocks while she was out and about. For Crawford, painting and hiding the rocks goes beyond just putting a smile on someone’s face.

“The whole concept behind it is to get kids off the computers and gaming systems,” she said. “You want parents to get involved too, and spend time with their kids. The second piece of it is to go spend time outdoors to place the rocks.”

The third part, she said, was to post “discovered” rocks on Facebook.

“My long-term dream is to have more kids engage and continue the effort,” Crawford said.

Since starting the initiative, Crawford has reached out to area schools to gain momentum for Pawleys Rocks. She delivered rocks and oyster shells to Waccamaw Intermediate, where Christie Weaver’s after-school art class painted them.

“Nancy has been great,” Weaver said. “She made the labels and stuck them to the back of the rocks, then put Mod Podge on them so they’d be OK out in the weather.”

Weaver said that every child illustrated and created their own rock composition. She now has about 60 rocks and oyster shells for students to hide.

“They’re all very individual and different,” Weaver said. “We are going to place these out and around in the community where they can be found quickly. We’re hoping people will take rocks and hide other ones in their place, and we also want them to post that they found the rocks. That’s Nancy’s whole thing, she’s really encouraging people to post the rock if they find it.”

Weaver said that most of her students came up with designs to fit the shape of the rocks, including tennis shoes and dragons.

“That was fun for them, to say, ‘How am I going to take this and paint something that works with the shape I’m painting on?’” she said. “They really worked on details and texture.”

Crawford said she always asks for permission from businesses before hiding her rocks.

“I do a lot on the beach, on the walkways,” she said. “CVS Pharmacy and the banks, they get a kick out of it. I also hide them around the Hammock Shops and Quigley’s.”

Crawford hides about six rocks a week, often decorating them with dogs, sea turtles or something inspirational. She marks each one with a Pawleys Rocks sticker and uses acrylic paint so the designs don’t fade away. She also keeps them family-friendly.

“The whole thing should have no political aspect, because kids are finding them,” Crawford said. “I usually try to put a smile on it, in case a child finds it.”

Foster, who is a business owner and motivational coach, decided to keep the rock she found on the walkway.

“The night before I found the rock, I was putting together a PowerPoint for my team and on the final slide I wanted to end it with something that will make people smile,” she said. “I was searching for a Google image about dreaming, and I found one that said Dream Big. So when I found the rock I started thinking, I’ve got to tell this story, there’s no coincidences. I’m a big believer and teacher of that, so this was just a sign for me.”

Foster has since found three more rocks, two in Pawleys and one outside of her second home in Greenville. She is planning to hide the Pawleys rocks in Greenville, in addition to painting her own rocks. “I’ve found a way to connect the two cities,” she said.

For Foster, the best part about rock painting is “leaving that joy for someone else to discover.”

“It really inspired me,” she said. “I’m always telling people to slow down and smell the roses. I think it’s fun to include an inspirational message. There’s a lot of ways to develop a sense of community and share a bond with each other that can be connected, and then connected again through technology. There are so many people in need of inspiration.”

Those interested in joining the rock painting movement can get involved on Facebook by following Pawleys Rocks.

A rock painting event will be held May 24, at the Waccamaw Library. The event is free, but attendees are encouraged to bring their own rocks and painting supplies.

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