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Rocks for a cause: Montana towns paint stones to share hope

Posted at 6:18 PM, Jul 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-11 12:48:28-04

BILLINGS — The newest addition to Riverfront Park is an unofficial community project known as Sammy the Snake. Community members have painted and placed over 250 rocks to make up Sammy and the concept is taking off. The town of Culbertson has formed their own caterpillar of rocks dedicated to a very special cause.

It was the Lantz family’s first introduction to Sammy the Snake on Thursday, and it won’t be the last.

“I was amazed because of how many people actually brought rocks,” said preteen Mylea Jade Lantz.

The Lantz family

Rock painting enthusiast Laura Bradshaw brought the idea of Sammy to life back in June.

“I honestly hope that he can grow all the way around the park and maybe bring his tail all the way back so it’s even with his head right here,” Bradshaw said.

Bradshaw wanted to give something back to the community, something that would bring families together and out of the house.

“I do it because I like to see people smile, get happy, you know kids get excited,” said Bradshaw.

Laura Bradshaw

Kids are very excited.

“It makes me happy because you’ll be seeing that your rocks were placed there and as you go around Riverfront, people will see it,” said Mylea’s little sister, Blayze Brady Lantz.

About 300 miles northeast of Billings, the community of Culbertson is home to a similar rock caterpillar. This caterpillar is dedicated to a special 7-year-old girl named Norma Petersen.

“After multiple doctors, we finally got diagnosed on June 9 that she had ALL (acute lymphocytic) leukemia,” said Norma’s mother, Kristin Petersen.

Norma Petersen

Norma and Kristin are currently in Fargo, North Dakota for treatment.

“It is what it is. It’s hard, you don’t want your kid to be sick. We know we’ll get through it,” Petersen said.

That’s why Culbertson resident Mary Snyder-Machart went to work on Norma’s Caring Caterpillar, making sure it grows before Norma returns.

“Norma’s got to see it on FaceTime and she’s going to send some rocks of her own to add back to it,” said Petersen.

It’s that feeling of community that’s not only helping Norma’s caterpillar grow but helping the Petersens get through these tough times.

Norma's Caring Caterpillar

“People have offered to pull weeds; people have offered to hay for him. It’s really appreciated,” Petersen said.

Back in Billings, it’s Sammy the Snake that’s bringing the community together as he grows.

“If it reaches all the way around the park, then we know we did something pretty good,” said teenager Jayden Lance Long.

If you’d like to learn more about Norma’s journey, visit this Facebook page. If you’d like to donate to her GoFundMe, click here.

To learn more about the Billings Rocks community, visit their Facebook page.