Rachel Meyer’s daughter was missing her friends.
As with many kids staying home while schools are closed, Meyer’s daughter was feeling the effects of the social distancing requirements being put in place across the country – and the world – to slow the spread of COVID-19.
So, Meyer had an idea. If it worked, then her daughter would have a fun activity to fill her time. They’d also have a reason to drive around the Spencer area and interact with her friends – from the car, of course.
She never imagined thousands of parents from around the world would love her idea so much that they would begin replicating it for their own kids and communities.
That’s exactly what has happened.
“I’m kind of blown away,” Meyer said.
Meyer is the creator of Rainbow Hunts for Kids, a public Facebook group, that has gone viral – in a good way.
Members of the group create rainbow crafts with their kids, post photos online and then place them in the windows of their homes. Once other nearby members have done the same, parents can drive around with their children to hunt for rainbows.
Rainbow Hunts for Kids goes global
Meyer created the group on March 19 after seeing a neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, had started a similar group.
She loved the idea.
“I made (the group) for my daughter because she was missing her friends,” Meyer said. “And I thought, ‘Oh, well we can put art in our windows and go wave at our friends.’”
At first, the group was called Northwest Iowa Rainbow Hunts for Kids. Meyer thought the group would stay local in the Spencer area. She guessed it would have 25 families or so.
However, the group’s membership increased. Then, the total just kept climbing.
“I realized things were changing significantly probably around 10 o’clock Friday morning when people started messaging me, asking me just how far they could share this,” Meyer said. “I thought, at that point, maybe we go beyond trying to be a local thing.”
Meyer created a poll question on the group’s page. She wanted to know whether the members felt the group should stay focused on Spencer and surrounding communities or if this could go national or global.
“People just took that and ran,” Meyer said. “And I suddenly realized that I could not do this on my own. That is when Megan volunteered to help me, my friend, Jacqueline Solgat out of California, said she would help me and my mom out of Tulsa also said she would help. We’re just doing our best.”
The group changed its name to Rainbow Hunts for Kids to encourage people in other areas to join.
The group continues to grow
As of 10:45 a.m. Monday, the group has 14,319 members. A tally from Sunday showed members in 48 states and 11 countries.
Meyer added the new administrators to the group on Thursday. One is her friend, Megan Hanges.
“I do graphic design, so I do the big posts,” Hanges said.” So, you know: We’re doing this for this week. Keep them up for this long. So just stuff like that, monitoring what’s on there.”
Many of the group’s post are from Spencer and area towns, but there are others from different states and countries.
“There are a lot of local people (in the group),” Hanges said. “If you drive down the streets and just look in the window of houses and you’ll see rainbows in a lot of windows.”
Hanges said none of the admins thought the group would grow to this point.
Meyer thought member requests would eventually slow down.
“I thought maybe it would stop at 5,000 people and I watched that get blown out of the water (Saturday),” Meyer said.
A fun family activity that connects
Rainbow Hunts for Kids has been a positive light at a time when many are looking for reasons to remain optimistic.
Hanges said the group brings out another side of people who are all facing similar difficulties of social distancing, staying home from work and watching children who are out of school as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I think it’s just the fact that there is good,” she said of what the group reveals. “People across the world are joining together to create an activity for their kids from home. People are locked in and kids need something to do, so they can make a craft and they post it in the window and they’re able to watch on Facebook with their parents and see that people drove by their house and saw their rainbow, or next week it’ll be an animal, or whatever it is.”
The group is encouraging its members to create and put up rainbows until Wednesday. Parents can post photos of kids and their rainbows to Facebook. If they are driving around their communities and see rainbows, then they also can take photos and post them to the Facebook group.
The group has a couple of rules, though, to protect members’ privacy: No kids’ names and no addresses in photos. Anyone can join the Facebook group after they answer a few questions that cover those rules.
“Once you answer those questions, you’re in the group,” Meyer said. “All you have to do is follow along, post some art in your window and look for art when you’re out and about.”
After Wednesday, the group’s art focus will change to animals.
“That doesn’t mean you have to take your rainbow down. You can if you want to, but you can add an animal to it,” Meyer said. “Then you get to hunt all over again and see everyone’s outwork.”
A message of hope
Meyer said the group will continue to come up with ideas for what to post in windows as long as social distancing or shelter in place requirements remain.
She added that her favorite part of this experience has been seeing how quickly and positively people responded to the group’s ideas.
“It’s just generally how fast it spread and how everyone wants to participate, even in countries we think of as being different from our own,” Meyer said. “They’re facing this, too. Their kids are scared; their kids are home from school, searching for a way to connect to the people they know and love at home. And just watching it spread out and how happy it’s making kids is the best part of it all.”
Like the symbolism of the rainbows in the group’s projects, Meyer wanted to share a message of hope and encouragement for everyone in the group.
“Share your art,” Meyer said. “We’re all going to get through this. We’re all going to be OK. Hang in there.”