Mandan News

Painting rocks of hope

After nearly just a week, only a handful of the initial 500 rocks are left at Sanford. (Photo by Dustin White)

After nearly just a week, only a handful of the initial 500 rocks are left at Sanford. (Photo by Dustin White)


By Dustin White
Mandan News,editor

Going in for cancer treatment can be a horrifying ordeal, but patients at Sanford Health are getting a bit of encouragement from an unlikely object. Rocks painted by students at Custer Elementary School in Mandan have given patients the extra encouragement they need.

When Karen Nagel, a fifth grade teacher at Custer, first brought in a batch of painted rocks to Sanford, she had no idea how quickly they would spread.

Nagel’s husband had been receiving treatment, and she thought it would be a good project, to give patients a little keepsake. Her class loved the idea, and they set out to work. Quickly the entire school became involved, completing a total of 500 rocks.

The rocks have painted on them inspirational words such as “hope” or “love,” which carries a great deal of meaning for those who receive them.

For the staff at Sanford, it was quite a surprise. “Karen just brought them over one day,” Trisha James, an RN, said. “The rocks have been going very fast, the patients find them very cute.”

They have been going so fast that the initial batch of rocks were nearly gone in just over a week.

“The rocks are very special for the patients. They can keep them in their pockets for a reminder every time they touch them,” James said.

Sanford has been happy with the gesture. Kimberly Singer, public relations coordinator at Sanford, said that they appreciate these community gestures, as do the patients, who find joy in this project.

It isn’t necessarily the rocks that make the difference though, but the thought behind them. “Look how cheerful it is,” said Eileen Heidrich, a patient at Sanford said. “It’s very nice that the kids think about us, what’s not to love.”

Word is spreading

Karen Nagel's Fifth grade class finishes up painting the base coat on a batch of rocks. (Photo by Dustin White)

Karen Nagel’s Fifth grade class finishes up painting the base coat on a batch of rocks. (Photo by Dustin White)


The rocks have been such a great hit that Nagel’s class decided to work on a second batch of rocks. Other organizations began asking if they could receive some as well.

With this project taking off so quickly, it has taken Nagel by surprise. “I had no idea that it would take off so quickly and touch so many people.” Nagel said.

So popular has this project been that Nagel has decided to continue working on it throughout the year, as well throughout the following years.

“Our favorite part about this whole experience is just knowing that people will have a keepsake from a student who wishes the best for them.”