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'Rainbows Over Michigan' unites people, spreads hope during pandemic

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

The rainbows come in all shapes and sizes – brightly-colored kaleidoscope rainbows, paper heart rainbows, string ones, even one made of Hot Wheels cars.

On the new Facebook group, Rainbows Over Michigan, every rainbow is welcome, each a symbol of hope. They’re a reminder that we will get through this crisis.

The group, started less than a month ago by a mom in Macomb Township, now has more than 190,000 members, many sharing rainbows they’ve painted on windows and sidewalks all over Michigan to lift people’s spirits during this difficult time, especially those on the front lines.

A kaleidoscope of painted colors with a heart shape changes the view from one hospital room in Lansing during the COVID-19 crisis.

“It’s nice to know we come from a state that we encourage one another,” said Cynthia Hutar, who founded Rainbows Over Michigan. “You have to have hope, faith, stay strong.”

It was a conversation with a childhood friend that gave Hutar, who grew up in New York, the idea to start the group. 

Chatting with her friend Couryn Cess, who still lives in New York, which has become the epicenter’s of the nation’s crisis, Couryn showed Hutar a rainbow her son had painted on a window. She told her how other groups in areas like Spain were sharing pictures of rainbows, the symbol of hope during this pandemic. Hutar decided she wanted to start a group in Michigan. 

“I figured it would brighten up the neighborhood,” said Hutar. “Everything is so eerie out there. You’re limited to just walking. Even when I go outside with my kids, all the kids are in front of their own houses.”

But what she thought would be a small group of maybe 100 family, friends and neighbors has mushroomed -- and keeps growing by the day. 

“It just kept growing and growing,” said Hutar.

Today, Rainbows Over Michigan is filled with pictures of rainbows of every kind spread all over the state. In a post from Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, a kaleidoscope of painted colors cover the windows in one room.

Stacy Lynn Wybo of Macomb County said the group helped lift her spirits as her 95-year-old grandfather fought COVID-19 and was released from the hospital this week.

“Being a part of this group has had an amazing impact on me,” said Wybo. “Everyone’s inspirational, encouraging posts have helped me tremendously through this difficult time.”

Hutar said she’s had people from other states -- Missouri, Arkansas – ask about starting their own groups. Someone even asked her to start a “Rainbows Around the World” but she declined. Michgan’s group, which now has five administrators to approve members, is busy enough.

Hutar hopes the messages are making a difference for those who need it the most – the doctors, nurses, grocery store workers and other people still working today.

And what will happen when this over – or when people can at least return to work and leave their homes? Hutar said she and the other administrators were just talking about it recently. They may keep the group going.

“If people are still posting and it’s still positive, why not?” she said.