Jumping in the air and cheering in delight, a joyful Chris Gent is ecstatic after finding a specially-painted rock hidden in Druridge Bay Country Park.
Smiling from ear to ear, he excitedly shouts ‘yes!’ as he adds it to his ever-growing collection of decorated stones, and he can’t wait to go on the hunt for more.
And it’s this passionate and endearing reaction, captured numerous times on video, which has turned the 48-year-old into something of a social-media celebrity.
The heartwarming footage of this Hadston man, who has learning difficulties, has gone viral, with the videos being shared, viewed and reacted to thousands of times.
Chris, along with his carer and long-term friend Wendy Baston, are playing the increasingly-popular Northumberland Rocks game, which is sweeping the region. Players decorate rocks – making reference to the Northumberland Rocks Facebook group in the process – and hide them for others to find.
Images of the discovered items are then posted onto the social-media page.
Wendy has submitted numerous videos of Chris to the group and the footage of him celebrating wildly as he finds another stone has captured people’s imagination, with fellow rock hunters saying the footage makes them smile and brightens their day.
In fact, Chris has become so well known, that kind-hearted players have started leaving rocks at Druridge Bay, dedicated especially to him.
With fans far and wide, Chris has also been sent rocks to his home, while even the police have shown their appreciation.
He is due to swap decorated rocks with an eight-year-old from Jarrow, to help the youngster celebrate his birthday at the weekend.
And he has been invited to The Alnwick Garden and Blyth RNLI as a special guest.
Mother-of-four Wendy, 47, from Hadston, has known Chris for more than 30 years and sees him as family. She is delighted that people have taken Chris to their hearts. She said: “I think the world of him and I love seeing him so happy. The game gets him out of the house and the videos of him finding the rocks make people smile. The reaction to Chris has been brilliant, he has had such positive feedback.”
Earlier this month, Blyth Neighbourhood Policing Team (BNPT) – having seen the footage online – decided to treat Chris to a special present. Spearheaded by PC Billy Mulligan and his team, the kind-hearted officers gave him a bundle of goodies, which included a BNPT painted rock.
The parcel, packaged in a police evidence bag and wrapped in police tape, also contained badges, epaulettes, a key ring and some chocolate coins. Police hand-delivered the package to Chris at his home, and his reaction was brilliant! Excitedly unwrapping his special rock, Chris shouted ‘Look at that, wow!’ followed by delighted cheers.
The moment was filmed and the video was posted onto Northumbria Police’s Facebook page. It has been viewed more than 107,000 times, shared 430 times and has 3,100 reactions.
Chris now has a fine collection of rocks, including Hallowe’en-themed ones. He said: “I love finding the rocks. I feel over the moon when I find them.”