LOCAL NEWS

Utah man delivers thousands of ‘heart rocks’ to Uvalde

Oct 8, 2022, 5:30 PM | Updated: 5:56 pm

UTAH COUNTY, Utah— A man from Utah County delivered thousands of hand-carved rocks to the people of Uvalde, Texas, this week, more than four months after a shooting at an elementary school rocked the community and the nation.

Tom Ballard began carving heart-shaped rocks three years ago to give to his students at school after multiple suicides in his community. Not long after, his brother-in-law took his own life.

Since that time, Ballard has been carving, selling and handing out his heart rocks to students across the country. His message: You matter.

“And you are seen, you are loved, and you’re not alone,” he said.

After the tragedy in Uvalde in May, Ballard began making preparations and asking for donations to help him bring his message and his rocks to the small town in Texas.

“It was really just a special opportunity,” he said.

This week, he made that trip, driving thousands of rocks in his Prius from Utah to Uvalde.

Beginning with the first medics to arrive at the shooting scene, Ballard met with first responders, students, families of the victims, senior citizens, and even police officers who have been criticized for their response.

“They were just so excited to have someone say you matter,” Ballard said. “Thank you for what you’re doing.”

Each person he met, he asked where he should go next and who he should give the rocks to. He promoted his trip on social media and said he even had people notice the Utah license plate and wave him down to ask for heart rocks.

“I brought heart rocks to be used as tools and the people that recognized it was more than just a rock but an opportunity to share truth with someone and tell them that they matter,” he said, “hey got the hearts and they distributed them.”

Some would take dozens to share with neighbors and friends. He left hundreds at the hospital, an assisted living center and school district offices. And, he said, the community couldn’t get enough. And he couldn’t believe how much they loved their neighbor.

“I have never experienced a community where they were just immediately thinking about other people,” he said.

“What I realized is Uvalde is strong and the people of Uvalde are praying for their neighbors.”

Ballard also takes his message to schools in Utah and other states. He funds his work by selling his rocks at farmers markets and online. When a school asks him to speak and provide heart rocks, he sets up a GoFundMe to cover the costs of making them.

“I believe that by doing that, we can prevent potential death by suicide. We can prevent unnecessary just heartache and loneliness,” he said.

Ballard also employs stone carvers in Asia to help him keep up with demand. But even then, he said he is struggling to keep up. Still, he pushes forward, determined to spread his message and his reminders as much as possible.

“The beauty isn’t in the rock,” he said. “The beauty is in the moment that’s created when two people come together and one person says, ‘This is your reminder that you matter and you are seen.’”

Ballard is keeping in touch with his friends in Uvalde, including a woman whose daughter took her own life and who is now learning how to carve her own heart rocks.

Others have already requested more rocks. Ballard plans to send more in the coming weeks and he is planning a return trip to bring rocks to the rest of the people in the city.

You can learn more about Ballard’s efforts and contribute to his mission by visiting his website and GoFundMe pages:

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Utah man delivers thousands of ‘heart rocks’ to Uvalde