HUGGS: Westport teen sends painted rocks around the country to inspire connection during pandemic

Connecticut Families

WESTPORT, Conn. (WTNH) — “I missed my friends, we couldn’t see each other at all,” says Samantha Henske. So, at the start of the pandemic, she thought of ways she could stay connected with her peers from her home desk while learning remotely.

“It would be a little weird for them to put a picture of me on their desk, I thought, so I decided to paint little rocks, little meaningful rocks, and every time they looked at it they’d think of me,” she explains.

The 13-year-old took an online class about entrepreneurship and pushed her idea further, creating a kind of chain letter for the modern ages called HUGGS.

“Jane living in California finds our site and sends a hug to her cousin, Sam, living in Ohio,” explains a promotional video for the painted rocks, which come with a code. “Once it is entered, Sam can now see a chain of hugs that Jane started.”

The recipient then pays it forward, sending more positivity to more friends.

“It’s tough times and you know we need to spread the love,” says Sammi.

“I think the most important skill for my kids to learn in terms of their future careers will be to be entrepreneurial,” says her father, Thomas, who suggested rocks for material, noting they’re solid, long-lasting symbols of strength that can be collected in nature. “It’s something you can do, you can produce, it’s fairly inexpensive and that’s the idea.”

“It was perfect timing, it all came together,” adds Sammi.

Rocks cost $10.00 with most proceeds going to charity.

The Westport teen plans to catapult her rocks – and her gracious ingenuity – all around the globe.

“We just want to share the feeling of appreciation and the fact that someone is thinking of you and you’re not alone even when it can feel like it in these times,” she says.

In the meantime, Sammi hopes a rock makes it to every state in the United States with a goal of getting 1,000 rocks out there in the next few months.

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