From pictures of rainbows and wide-grinned suns to optimistic messages and inspirational quotes, runners and walkers in suburban Chicago are receiving a dose of positivity thanks to one local running store.

On March 20, Dick Pond Athletics’ Carol Stream location, the flagship store of the five-unit chain that celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, promoted a “Chalk Your Walk” campaign, urging people to share encouraging notes and images on their driveways and sidewalks on March 20 and 21.

“Then, head outside and take a walk and look for other prints and messages written by your neighbors,” the post read.

While Dick Pond staff did not create the idea – one of the store’s frequent fun run participants brought it to manager Debbie Crawford’s attention – the store immediately championed the plan on its social media channels, pushed for the effort to extend beyond the initial March 21 date and has continued to publicize the initiative as a cheery antidote amid gloomy times in American society.

“Looking around, so many people are out running and walking now, why not try to put a smile on their faces?” Crawford says. “It’s a feel-good thing to counter the negativity and uncertainty around us.”

On the morning of the Carol Stream store’s first cancelled group run, knowing some of her regulars would stop by the store to traverse the running group’s typical route, Crawford stepped outside the store’s front door, drew a smiley face and wrote “Keep Running” in purple, pink and blue chalk. (The darker the chalk, the better it shows up in photos, Crawford reminds.)

“I wanted our runners to see something encouraging and to know that we were thinking of them,” says Crawford, who has also begun painting rocks in vivid colors for people to find along their walking or running routes – another modest effort designed to spur some delight.

While Dick Pond customers continue posting photos of the gleeful creations they’ve crafted themselves or discovered on their own runs and walks, Crawford hopes the earnest effort continues to gain momentum. On one recent walk with her husband, Crawford noticed a residential driveway blanketed in whimsical images and kind-hearted messages. It brought a smile to her face and strengthened her resolve to continue promoting the “Chalk Your Walk” effort at Dick Pond Athletics.

“Hopefully, people keep it up because we all need a pick-me-up these days,” Crawford says.