Keep on rockin’

With inspiration from a pet ladybug, Brock’s Rocks raise funds for research and care at the cardiology department at the IWK Health Centre

By Suzanne Rent
Photos by Steve Smith/VisionFire Studios

The kitchen table at Brock Molyneux’s house has been taken over by bugs. Well, rocks painted to look like ladybugs.

Brock is a nine-year-old from Bedford. He has a condition called bicuspid aortic valve. He will have to have surgery when he’s fully grown, likely in his 20s. But to help doctors find better and less invasive ways to do the surgery, Brock started a campaign to raise funds for research.

Brock was diagnosed with bicuspid aortic valve in 2011. During a routine checkup, the doctor noticed Brock had a heart murmur. Brock was sent for further testing. That’s when he was diagnosed. At first, Brock was monitored yearly. Now, it’s every second year. 

“I really had a challenging time with it,” says Neota Tinkler, Brock’s mom.

In her own research, Tinkler started reading about advances in heart-valve replacement surgery. She says the surgery generally requires breaking the sternum and patients need longer recovery times. But advancements mean less invasive surgery and shorter recovery periods. Tinkler told Brock by the time he would need the surgery, the advancements would be even better. 

But Brock wanted to do more, including raising funds for the research into valve replacement surgery. 

Brock’s Rocks for the IWK has several sources of inspirations. 

Brock was first impressed by canvassers who came to his house, raising money for various causes and charities. He talked about lemonade stands. He asked his mom to bake cookies. She suggested he look for a project at which they could excel. Brock and his mom also love to walk and explore local trails and parks. During every trip to the beach, they bring home a rock. They had also tried geocaching, a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants use GPS to hide and find geocaches, often shortened to just caches, all over the world. 

“We thought, ‘What could we do with that?’” Tinkler says. And Brock’s Rocks for the IWK was born.

The idea to paint the rocks as ladybugs was inspired by a pet friend. 

“Me and my friend Peter found a ladybug at my school and I brought it home,” Brock says. “We had it for eight weeks. We still have it in the plant.” The ladybug’s gender was unknown, so Brock named it Mister Lady.

“My mom bought the red and black [paint] and we just rolled with that,” Brock says.

Brock and his mom started painting the rocks over the winter. Painting the red layer first, then the black details, and a final coat of sealant, letting it dry to finish.

The target was to get the ladybug rocks in parks and on trails during February, which is Heart Month. But the weather didn’t cooperate as planned, at least at the beginning of the month. So they put out the first 10 rocks the final weekend of February. 

The back of each rock includes a message that says, “Brock’s Rocks for the IWK. Please donate.”


Tinkler created a Facebook page, Brock’s Rocks for the IWK, and sent a message about Brock’s campaign to hosts of local radio stations. And the message spread quickly from there. 

“The first day we put it on Facebook, there were a thousand views, maybe,” Brock says.

The first rock found was in Point Pleasant Park.

There are ladybug rocks in Shubie Park, Hemlock Ravines, along the paths of the Musquodoboit Trails and Long Lake trails, and the frog pond just past Dingle Park. They plan on putting rocks at the boardwalk in Fishermen’s Cove in Eastern Passage. They also plan on putting rocks in the Blue Mountain. 

A woman found one in Shubie and placed it back. Some people will re-hide the rocks and make a donation or keep them for their own gardens. 

Brock’s favourite part of the project is hiding the ladybug rocks. 

“We hid one on a trail,” he says. “We walked forward, we walked back, and my mom didn’t see it for two minutes.”

“He’s really good at hiding them,” Tinkler says.

The pair got a message from a woman who found two at the Musquodoboit Trail. She kept one and re-hid the other.

All the money donated from those who find the ladybug rocks goes directly to the IWK Foundation. 

“I think this is going to be an ongoing thing like when I am actually 15,” Brock says. “You never know.”

“Someone asked about our target and we said, ‘Just keep going!’” Tinkler says. 

Brock and his mom continue to leave the ladybug rocks in local parks, and hoping people find them and donate to the IWK. Brock’s message and campaign has already caught on. A woman in Springhill is painting ladybug rocks and hiding them in parks and on trails in her community. She has nieces in Truro who may help in that town. Still another woman in Alaska is copying Brock’s idea with the goal of raising money for the hospitals in her state. She’s keeping the name Brock’s Rocks.

They also often hear from other parents whose children have the condition or those whose children have benefited from care they received at the IWK Health Centre. 

And while Brock won’t need his surgery for at least a decade, the technology and advancements can easily improve with the help of ladybug-painted rocks hidden on paths and trails all over the world. 

“I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if someone doesn’t carry it on,” Tinkler says. “With 10 years, I can continue to be optimistic about this. And with Brock’s fundraising, I can be really, really optimistic about this.”

The Facts about Bicuspid Aortic Valve 

Bicuspid aortic valve affects about one of out every 85 children. The aortic valve allows blood to exit the left ventricle of the heart to supply the body with oxygenated blood. The valve has three leaflets that open to allow the blood to escape, but not return. Most people have three leaflets, but in cases of bicuspid aortic valve, two of the leaflets get fused together. 

“When those fusions happen, it’s not uncommon for the valve to still function perfectly normally,” says Dr. Robert Chen, a pediatric cardiologist at the IWK Health Centre. “There are all kinds of ways you can end up with abnormalities of the valve.”

Bicuspid aortic valve is usually discovered incidentally, much like with Brock, when a doctor is listening to a heart during a routine examination. Murmurs like the one Brock had aren’t an indication that a child also has bicuspid aortic valve. Ninety per cent of children have a murmur, which is the sound of the blood flow through the heart and the vessels. Chen says fewer than two percent of murmurs in children are associated with any structural abnormality of the heart. 

But if doctors hear something called an ejection click during an examination, that is a diagnostic sound of a bicuspid aortic valve. An ejection click is the sound of the valve’s tenting open as it tried to fully expand with only two leaflets. 

Chen says as children get older, they can develop problems with the valve and the aorta above it. 

“If you have a valve that’s fully functional, no obstruction, no leak, the likelihood a child is going to develop an obstruction in the first two decades of life is very low,” Chen says. “It’s actually less than 50 per cent.”

Most children with bicuspid aortic valve can carry on with normal activities. Some children will be restricted from competitive sports, such as those in which a coach is controlling the child’s activity and training.