One rock at a time. One heart at a time.
This is community.
So early last spring, COVID had arrived in the United States, state of Florida, Central Florida, Osceola County and our town of Celebration. All of our lives were changed forever. How each resident coped with new guidelines, restrictions and a lockdown was different. Or was it?
Unbeknownst to each other, five women were painting rocks in our town and then doing “rock” drops so that residents in our community could “find” a rock that would brighten their day. These five ‘rock stars’ met virtually on a zoom call in January 2021 after I had reached out through Facebook to “Lisa’s Celebration Rocks.”
My intent was to ask Lisa if she would paint heart rocks that volunteers could hide throughout every village on Valentine’s Day weekend. The Celebration Foundation had blanketed the town with heart signs purchased by residents and this hear rock challenge would be a unique way to show love of community. Lisa responded quickly and stated that she was not the only one painting rocks in Celebration…there were four more women: Chloe, Val, Colleen and Laure. Each had found each other by finding their rocks, going to their Facebook page and then Facebook messaging each other with questions, ideas and comments. But they had never met during the pandemic.
So, I set up a Zoom call with all five rock star artists and Foundation staff member, Renae, that lasted two hours! Every rock star artist has a story and readily accepted the heart rock challenge to paint the town with heart rocks. It started with an idea for 150 heart rocks per village, seven golden heart rocks with prizes (one for each village) and then heart rocks for healthcare heroes. These women painted 2,000 heart rocks! Volunteering their time, talent and treasure to do so. Then asking 17 volunteers to strategically “drop” and “hide” rocks around town at set intervals. What a community event from start to finish!
Let me introduce the five women that showed our community lots of love on February 14.
Lisa Gallego has lived in Celebration 11 years. Her family had been visiting Celebration for years before they moved here. She was the first in her family to move to Florida from New Mexico. Her family loved the community so much and just had to live here. She began painting just a few rocks during the pandemic as she was furloughed from Disney and limited on things she could do. It started with just a few but she wanted to see where the rocks ended up. So, Lisa started a Facebook page, “Lisa’s Celebration Rocks” and painted on the back of her rocks to post pictures when the rocks were found. And everyone did! She had no idea it would become as popular as it is today. One rock “drop” took Lisa 6 hours on her bicycle with a backpack and bike basket filled with 150 painted rocks. When Lisa is not painting rocks, she is back working at Disney and paddle boarding at least once a week.
Val Halsey has lived in Celebration for 13 years. Working for Disney since 1996, Val knew about Celebration and also knew it was where her and her husband would want to live and raise their son. Val fell in love with the beautiful sidewalk chalk art during the pandemic done by local artists. It got her thinking about how she could spread some cheer. That is how she came to begin painting rocks. Currently on furlough from Disney, Val is spending time with her family and volunteering with various organizations when she is not painting and dropping rocks. Her favorite rock EVER is any rock with a Tampa Bay Buccaneer logo as her family are longtime fans. Val would not reveal her favorite spot to hide rocks but gave a hint that if you have found her rocks in East Village…then you have the answer to that question. Follow Val on her Facebook page at “Halsey’s Rocks.”
Colleen Schmidt has lived in Celebration since 2008 and is an Osceola County elementary school art teacher at Partin Elementary School. Her family used to vacation at Disney since she was eight years old, bought into DVC and heard about Celebration. They came to visit the town of Celebration and it was her dream to move here one day. Colleen read about painting rocks online during the pandemic and got to “work.” Sitting on her porch and watching the neighborhood kids find the rocks has been a source of joy during the pandemic for Colleen. Her favorite rock was a flamingo. When Colleen is not teaching or painting rocks, she is the Osceola County Elementary Art Chair and she serves on the Florida Art Education Association Board as the Elementary Division Supervisor. She also paints murals in homes on weekends. Facebook page is www.facebook.com/Artbycolleen.
Chloe Gibbons has lived with her family in Celebration for four years. Her husband came to work in an office in Celebration and they fell in love with the town. They just knew that they wanted to live and work here. Chloe has been painting rocks since 2018. It began when returned home to England with her two-year-old and they stumbled across a rock during a walk to a local park. Her son was so excited by finding his treasure and the look of joy on his face inspired Chloe to bring the idea back to Celebration. It felt like a solo mission trying to get others to catch on to the rock idea by hiding only 20 or so at a time. Our town seemed like the perfect destination for a community spirited idea. Now that a group of rock stars are painting, dropping, and finding rocks Chloe feels that a rock movement is happening! When Chloe is not painting rocks, she enjoys bike rides with her family (2 kiddos under 4) and works for an events company. Chloe can also be found painting commissioned rocks of pets, homes, family portraits. (“Milestones by Smile Stones”) Keep your eyes out for her favorite hiding spots that are in context such as a half-eaten M&M outside of Kilwin’s. Follow Chloe at “Smile Stones Celebration Group.”
Laure Dejeant has lived in our town for eight years. Her family was relocated to Walt Disney World from Disneyland Paris. Laure and her children found their first rock five years ago at the Orlando Shakes theatre under a bench. It was a Pinkalicious rock painted by a Girl Scout Troop from Volusia County. This inspired Laure to paint rocks to surprise others. Her favorite rock EVER was a series of 25 Star Wars rocks that she dropped in Celebration this summer. When Laure is not giving life to mysterious, magnetic characters by painting rocks, she enjoys cooking, sewing, drawing, painting and traveling. Her rocks are posted in the “Celebration & Disney Rocks” group.
Hope you have found rocks along our walking trails, our sidewalks and other spots in our town this past year and especially Valentine’s Day 2021. Keep your eyes open for these hidden gems to keep, hide in another spot or give to someone you love. Stay tuned for another community rock drop in 2021!
Want to volunteer or have an idea that will impact our town? Contact Kathleen Sipio, Executive Director at the Celebration Foundation, 407-566-1234 or email@example.com.
By Kathleen Sipio, Executive Director of Celebration Foundation