The thrill of the 'rocky' hunt

Tuxedo Park boy's painted rock initiative is a way to get people outdoors while joining two communities in a fun activity

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  • Christopher Ahart of Tuxedo Park.

  • The shape of the rocks often dictate the design - as it does for this open-mouth whale, lady bug and eye ball.

  • Butterflys, a heart and a piece sign are among the designs on these painted rocks.

  • A sample of the painted rocks found in and around Tuxedo.

  • This flyer exlains how Tuxedo Rocks.

By Christine Urio

— Soon to be fourth-grader Christopher Ahart of Tuxedo Park brings new meaning to the phrase “the thrill of the hunt.”

In this case, it's the "rocky" hunt.

In his spare time, Christopher has been decorating rocks with his mom and leaving them around the town of Tuxedo for others to find, much like a scavenger hunt, for his community initiative called "Tuxedo Rocks."

“I think it helps get more people outside to enjoy world,” he said.

300 and growingChristopher hides rocks each week and has already placed about 300 throughout the town.

“I like to put them in tree stumps around town outside,” he said. “It’s a good idea and fun to also hide them inside your house like hide and seek for your family.”

Once a rock is found, the finder typically takes it and hides it somewhere new for someone else to find, ultimately continuing the search.

“I usually remember where I put them, but I don’t keep track,” Christopher said. “If I remember, I go back to a place and see if it’s gone and someone found it.”

While it only takes him about five minutes to design a rock with either paint or Sharpies, he likes to put details into his work.

“Usually you can do your favorite thing or make a random design or draw something and write logos—anything you want basically, it’s creative,” he said.

“I get inspiration from whatever’s around me and my imagination,” he added.

A sense of communityNot only does the rock hunt encourage creativity, but it also fosters a sense of community, forms friendships and gets people out of the house.

“It gets people outside and sharing the question of ‘Where did you find that rock?’” said Christopher’s mom, Kelly Spranger, who admits she's bonded more with her son over this activity. “Friends will be like, 'I have to go hide those rocks' or, 'I painted some more.'"

Because many children and even parents are regularly tied to electronics, the painted rock initiative is a fun way to spend time as a family.

“It’s a great way for parents to get off their phones and go for a walk, hike or bike ride with their kids,” she said. “It builds a sense of family because everyone gets outside and off their devices.”

Some kids may not be interested in outdoor activities, yet parents ask if they want to go out find a painted rock, they tend to say yes.

“If you like Easter, you should like this, except everyone is an Easter Bunny,” said Christopher. “When people hunt for rocks, it gets them out in the community experiencing the town. Sometimes I have seen people actually find one, and sometimes they replace it with a rock of their own and write their name on it.”

Christopher’s painted rock initiative began while visiting his grandparents in South Florida and he came across a decorated stone.

Florida, Montana, Tuxedo“We actually found out it was a country-wide event,” said Spranger. “It’s not a competition, but a cute community thing that gets passed on by word of mouth.”

Knowing that his idea has caught on has been an exciting experience for Christopher.

“It makes me feel happy because people are participating in my hunt and can have the same experience I did in Florida,” he said.

He has high hopes for the project. He knows people in Montana are doing this and he wants to continue to see the initiative grow.

“I want people to have fun,” he said. “It’s basically more of a thing I want to get around the country that picks up throughout the states so it can take off as a national thing,” he said.

Rock gardenOne way in which he has succeeded in spreading his idea in Tuxedo, Tuxedo Park and nearby Sloatsburg is by introducing the idea at school when he was "Principal for the Day" at George Grant Mason School.

“After Christopher was principal, the actual principal had all the kids paint a rock before the end of the school year and take it home to spread the word,” said Spranger. “Because we live in the town next to Sloatsburg, their principal caught wind of the idea and did it, too. So, the two communities joined together and now we have enough rocks for the kids to find, so the idea really took off.”

Both schools agreed that in the fall they would try to implement a rock garden for the kids to place all the rocks they found and wanted to keep. “A lot of communities love idea,” said Spranger. “It has truly been embraced as a community thing.”

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