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For Scott and Trish Snyder, building custom rocking horses for children of fallen heroes has become a way of life.
They personally deliver their colorful creations -- each telling a unique story of a fallen soldier or public servant -- across the country with hopes of bringing kids joy in a time of sadness.
From a barn behind their home in Mantua, the retirees started a non-profit organization called Hero's Rock after watching news about Christopher Thibodeau, an Apache pilot from Ohio, who was killed in Afghanistan one week after learning he was going to be a father.
"We thought we can do something for the child," Scott said. "We can make a rocker in honor of his father to give to him. When the kid grows up, they'll realize that when their dad died, people cared."
The Apache One Helicopter rocker was built for Thibodeau's unborn son, Liam, and delivered to the family in 2012. Since then, news about Hero's Rock spread on social media and more families have come forward nationwide.
The rockers are built in all shapes -- helicopters, police cars and humvees -- to not only show who the person was, but what they stood for, Scott said. Each rocker includes an etched wood portrait and their military rank.
"We personally deliver it," Trish said. "As he builds it, we post pictures on Facebook so we can watch it go from a slab of wood to the finished piece."
Hero's Rock has 13 rockers to deliver along the East Coast this fall. Scott is building two polar bear rockers for the daughters of fallen Air Force Sgt. Peter Taub, killed in Afghanistan in 2015, and a police car rocker for late Baton Rouge Police Officer Montrell Jackson's son. Officer Montrell was killed in a July 2016 ambush.
Tears come to Scott's eyes when he talks about building the Med Unit Humvee rocker for the son of Spc. Jordan Byrd, a 19-year-old medic killed in Afghanistan saving the life of another soldier. The rocker was presented to the family in front of 500 people in Salt Lake City, Utah.
"Some of the presentations we do, it's just the family," Trish said. "They decide what they want. If they want it personal and private, that's just fine with us."
Thibodeau's brother, Mike, recently spoke at a rocker presentation for the daughter of Willoughby Officer Jason Gresko, who lost his life in an accident while responding to a call for assistance.
The first rocker made for his nephew had an amazing impact, Mike said.
"There was joy in my mom's voice for the first time since we lost my brother," he said. "Scott says they make rockers for children. He doesn't know how wrong he is about that. He makes rockers for families in the darkest place in their life."
Hero's Rock has helped Thibodeau's father, Bob, deal with the death of his son. He comes to the workshop every Saturday to help design memorial rockers named "The Patriotic Pony," which are red, white and blue rocking horses painted with handprints that will be delivered to Fisher Houses across the East Coast.
"That's where the families go with their children to pick up the body," Trish said. "It's so quiet and there's nothing for them to do, so it would be a nice distraction for the kids."
Once the rockers go into the paint shop, they go into "Blackout mode," where families and friends share stories and memories with Hero's Rock on Facebook, Trish said.
"They tell us about camping trips or silly pranks they did, so it helps the families," Scott said. "They read the stories. Sometimes friends post stories to us that maybe the parents never even heard, so it's really cool and then no body gets to see the rocker until it's delivered."
Hero's Rock will be raffling off a rocking horse at St. Joseph's Ox Roast Fair in Mantua next weekend. The organization was also accepted into Macy's Shop For a Cause Charity Challenge.
To donate, visit www.crowdrise.com/heros-rock1.