As Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, one Nelson County family has been on a monthslong journey to find love throughout Virginia.
Michelle and Zach Ashwell’s 8-year-old daughter Peyton Ashwell has been on a mission since June to hunt down all of the LOVEwork signs in Virginia, a trek that has taken the Arrington family to some of the deepest corners of the state and back.
Spurred by a wanting to get outside safely because of the pandemic, the family now has found more than 120 signs with plans to track down the rest in areas of the commonwealth they have yet to visit, s7uch as those in the northern and southwestern portions of the state.
“I think in a time where there’s this pandemic a lot of people are losing hope and getting depressed and having to be isolated and away from family and at home and this was a way that we found to not go through that,” Ashwell said. “... [I]t was an option for us to have something to look forward to that day.”
According to the state of Virginia’s website, more than 200 LOVEwork signs are located across the commonwealth. Among the newest signs is one planned in the town of Amherst on the grounds of the Amherst County Visitors Center.
The Ashwells have traveled thousands of miles throughout the commonwealth in search of the signs, which often offer glimpses into the life and culture of the area they inhabit.
“It’s taken us to parts of Virginia that I’ve never been to. I’m from Nelson County, born and raised, my husband’s from Amherst. It’s kind of neat to go to these different areas and see the different scenery,” Ashwell said.
The adventure started about a couple years ago around the time Peyton was 6 and saw her first LOVE sign that was put up for the annual LOCKN’ Festival. With the onset of the pandemic and the discovery of the Virginia website listed the different signs, the family was looking for something safe to do, Ashwell said.
Having started their adventure roughly eight months ago hitting the LOVE signs close to home in Nelson County, the Ashwells eventually expanded outward, working their way through Buckingham, Farmville, Albemarle County, Louisa County and Harrisonburg, among others.
Peyton said her favorite sign so far has been the one located at Nancy’s Candy Company in Meadows of Dan.
Ashwell said they mostly travel over the weekend or days her and her husband have off work. Nelson County Public Schools’ virtual learning format also allows the family to hit the road while Peyton completes school work remotely.
Peyton and her mother said any family with the means to do so should follow in their footsteps.
“I think everybody should see them. It’s something that if you have the means and you’re able and you have the time to do it — and it’s not time restricted,” Ashwell said. “You can work at your own pace.”