Gratitude Graffti Project in Highland Park

NJ Spotlight News | November 28, 2013 | Around NJ

By Dari Kotzker

“I am grateful for my family and a roof over my head,” said Kayleigh Wharton.

Kayleigh Wharton is just one of the many Highland Park residents who took part in the gratitude graffiti project. Since October 27th, graffiti has taken over the town on more than 30 storefronts, schools, and religious institutions.

“Many people often have good thoughts don’t know how to express them and this is a way to publically express their thoughts. The intention is to walk by, read a though of gratitude and think about something you in fact are grateful too,” said Jacquelyn Juricic, president of the board, “Who is my neighbor.”

“It gives the people in the town a real sense of pride in town and make them feel good. Everybody’s thankful for something and it’s wonderful to express it,” said Tom Carman, Highland Park resident.

Maplewood was the first municipality to start this project, and Highland Park resident Colleen McKay Wharton suggested it for the hometown because it’s a walkable close-knit community. She contacted the local nonprofit group, “who is my neighbor?” to help spearhead this initiative.

“I love the idea not only for the individuals to take the time to write, but it really is so gratifying, to read what people have written and people took the time to pause from thinking about awful things happen to world to remember what we have,” said McKay Wharton.

And one of the most touching messages she’s read.

“Someone who wrote up at Safe Drugs, said that they’re grateful to marry their partners legally after 32 years, and that kind of brought tears to all of our eyes,” said McKay Wharton.

Some of hand-written sentiments include being grateful for family, pets, music, and pizza. The project ends today, and tomorrow the graffiti will be wiped clean. But even this morning, some local residents still had time to write that they are thankful for.

“I’m thankful for all of the opportunities that I have,” said a child.

“I’m thankful for my health,” said another child.

“I wrote that i was thankful for my mom’s strength, so, its something important to us as a family. She was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier in the year, and she’s thankful she survived,” said Meredith Carman.

Although it’s a New Jersey based idea, gratitude graffiti has spread to Toronto and Hong Kong. As for Highland Park, the town plans to make it an annual tradition.