As Stephanie Comardelle Parria was dealing with a difficult time in her life, she began to look for different forms of inspiration in her day-to-day life.
“I had gone through some emotional things, and I was looking for signs,” said Parria, who lives in Des Allemands. “And I was seeing them everywhere. I had a friend who didn’t understand. ‘How do you see these signs everywhere?’ And, for me, I don’t see how others don’t.
“I started thinking, people need (inspiration) in their lives. Is there anything I can do to help them find it?”That, in and of itself, was the inspiration for Parria to take on a new venture. She came across a page on Facebook in which members of a community would paint rocks, often with uplifting messages, and then “hide” them in relatively plain sight for others to come upon.
Parria loved the idea.
“St. Charles Parish Rocks” was born in September of last year. Today, more than 3,000 people have joined the group, which encourages others in the area to paint and hide their own rocks for others to find, in hopes of providing an uplifting feeling in someone else’s day.
Parria, who has long had some artistic talent, painted her rocks in many ways, some with messages upon them, others simply with vibrant colors and neat designs, and others that feature notable characters painted upon them. If a child finds one of her rocks with Spiderman or SpongeBob and it puts a smile on their face, she says she’s done her job.
“I wanted to make people smile and also help get kids interested in art,” she said, noting that for her, drawing and painting is therapeutic and “like a vacation” in her mind.
Some rocks might be at the Bridge Park.
Others in the parking lot of a store or outside of a popular business. She said a number of people have begun painting rocks of their own, while others follow the Facebook page to see the new rocks and perhaps pick up a clue on how to find them.
Parria doesn’t stop with the rocks alone.
Often, she’ll package a small book with it, sometimes aimed at children and other times for adults, but always with that same intent to inspire whoever finds it in some way.
It’s left her a tad less anonymous — and with a new nickname of sorts.
“At the store, I’m walking down the aisle and someone stops me to ask, ‘Hey, I know you.’ ‘You do?’ ‘You’re the rock lady! I found one of your rocks!’”
Through Facebook, contests are held for “best rock” for most major holidays.
Outside of the Facebook group, Parria has expanded her efforts to make a difference. During Easter, she made baskets of items to give away at Light Fellowship Church in Bayou Gauche and New Life Family Worship in Boutte.
She also set up a table with rocks and paint at New Life Family Worship in Boutte during the church’s Easter Egg hunt, allowing children to paint their own creations while taking a break from the egg hunt — and perhaps creating another art fan or two. She also volunteers with the St.Charles Parish juvenile corrections division through art therapy.
Parria added a number of people have reached out to her to donate rocks, paints, brushes and even money to purchase supplies, helping her to keep the venture alive.
It all started from her desire to inspire — which actually inspired her to do even more.
“I feel proud of what I do,” she said. “I feel like some kid out there is gonna love this. With the other (similar groups on Facebook) you’re supposed to re-hide it, but that’s not what I think. If somebody finds a rock and it touches them, I want them to keep it.”