Scott and Trish Snyder of Mantua had a simple idea when they started their part-time business making handcrafted wooden rocking horses for children of all ages. “For every 10 Trott Wood Creations we build, we pledged to give one away,” they explained. As they sold their original rocking horses, dragons, and other creations through local art shows and events, the idea for Hero’s Rock was born, giving Trish and Scott the mission to build tribute rockers for the children of fallen heroes. According to the two self-described hippies, “It was a play on words but it seemed so perfect — The most important thing to each of these heroes was their family…their rock.” In addition to customized rocking horses for small children, Hero’s Rock also creates Treasured Chests for older children, providing a place to hold treasured keepsakes of their loved one. Each custom piece features a laser-engraved portrait and service title of their loved one, so that their hero will never be forgotten.
The first rocker was modeled after the Apache helicopter that fallen pilot Christopher Thibodeau flew. It seemed fitting to the pair, who learned from Chris’ mother Doreen, of her son’s lifelong dream to be a pilot. She was touched at the couple’s offer to build a gift for her grandchild, sharing that shortly after Chris had found out he was to become a father, he had told her he wanted to build his baby a rocker. Unfortunately, Chris never got the chance to build it, or to meet his son, Liam. “What began as a quest to do something nice for a stranger was now quite personal. One of this young man’s final thoughts was to build his child a rocker. We were now fulfilling his wish. It was definitely personal!” Trish shared. They have built five more custom rockers since that time.
What began as a quest to do something nice for a stranger was now quite personal…
But recently, the future of that program was placed in peril on a Saturday evening in early March. Just as the Snyders sat down to dinner, the roof of their barn, which housed both Trott Wood Creations and their Hero’s Rock charity, collapsed under a heavy load of snow. Luckily, no one was hurt, although Scott had just returned from the shop only an hour prior to the collapse. Amazingly, during the collapse, the paint shop and build shop escaped the brunt of the damage. Trish explains, “There were guardian angels, our fallen heroes, watching over us, holding it up over those important areas.” Mantua’s first responders were able to access those areas to salvage the materials for two recent projects – the tribute police cruiser rocker and the nearly complete Patriotic Pony, allowing the Snyders to fulfill those important commitments.
There were guardian angels, our fallen heroes, watching over us…
The police cruiser will be given to Charlee, the four-year-old daughter of fallen Akron Police Officer Justin Winebrenner. Officer Winebrenner lost his life confronting a gunman while attending a fundraiser for a youth football league. The Patriotic Pony will reside at a Fisher House, which is similar to a Ronald McDonald House, where families of wounded soldiers can stay, free-of-charge while their injured loved one receives treatment. The image of local fallen hero Specialist Adam Hamilton, who did not have children, will be remembered on the Patriotic Pony. Eventually, it will be placed in one of the 27 Fisher Houses for the enjoyment of the children of our fallen and wounded heroes who come to visit.
“Somehow, we’ll figure out how to get back up and running,” Scott stated. “When the weather is nice, we’ll be able to do some of the work on our back porch,” he remarked. As previously scheduled, on the Sunday after the collapse, local families came to help with the clean-up efforts. When they did all they could outside, they gathered in the Snyder’s kitchen to add their red or blue handprints to the Patriotic Pony rocker as had been originally planned. Among the volunteers were the Thibodeau family, as well as Adam Hamilton’s family and friends.
Scott’s voice is filled with emotion at the outpouring of support they’ve received. He relates a bittersweet memory of the first of many clean-up days, sharing how “our first hero’s father crawled through the shop wreckage to save the wood for someone else’s fallen hero.” Overcome with emotion, he paused to collect his thoughts. Trish continued, explaining their drive to continue their efforts, “We see someone who risked and sacrificed their life for us, and now their child will grow up without a father. Watching all those news stories, and seeing what those families have lost, we want to do something, however small, to help make their child feel better in a rotten situation. At first, we wanted to do something nice for Liam and his family. We had no idea what it meant to them, the day we delivered the Apache One,” she marveled.
As the process to create each custom piece is long, done amidst Scott and Trish’s fulltime work schedules, families are encouraged to share stories and watch progress via the Here’s Rock Facebook page. Right before the rocker is finalized, however, there is a “blackout period” where no project photos are shared. “We want the family to be surprised when we deliver the rocker,” Trish explains. Throughout the process, however, friends and family members post stories and photos, easing the burden they each share. “One family member told us that they were so busy being sad, they had forgotten the sweet little memories,” she continued, “the stories they shared together during the process helped them heal, so that by the end of the process, both sides of the family came together in a celebration of life.”
Since the first rocker, Hero’s Rock has created five other custom designs for the children of fallen military and first responders. They’ve never known any of the families they have created rockers for, but have come to be considered family afterward. Both Trish and Scott’s fathers served in the military – Scott’s dad in WWII, while Trish’s served in the Korean War.
“We’ve had offers come in from near and far, for things like trailers to move items, storage space, and workshop space,” Scott marveled. The following weekend, Scott’s employer, Eclipse Engineering and Construction from Chagrin Falls, sent a crew and machinery to take down and remove the remains of the building. As time and weather permit, volunteers have continued to help remove salvageable items as building remnants are removed. Updates are available on the Hero’s Rock Facebook page. As of last weekend, Trish posted that they are almost three quarters of the way done with the clean up. Unfortunately, they learned that building codes have changed since the original barn was constructed. Now, in addition to building a new structure, they also need replace the existing concrete pad and start from scratch. “We have not gotten prices back yet, but it is getting expensive. There are other fundraisers in the works. The support we have received has been overwhelming. We will rise again and Hero’s Rock will be rockin’ like never before. Thank you all!” she posted.
To find out more about their efforts, visit herosrock.us, or like the Hero’s Rock page on Facebook. To help with their rebuilding efforts, visit gofundme.com/herosrock.