Pete Darling had a plan – and a dream. The plan was for a child’s rocking horse, a simple wooden toy that he could put together in a few hours. And the dream was to get as many horses to as many kids as he could. Pete had built a few of the horses every year for a few decades: one or two to give to friends and family. But he hoped to get more horses to more kids, and he needed help to achieve his dream.
In 2009, Pete called Eric Martin, the manager of Western Building Center in Columbia Falls, to share his idea. If Western Building Center could provide the materials, Pete could cut out the pieces and assemble the horses in his home workshop. Working together, they could make dozens of horses each year and donate them to families in need. Every kid needs a horse, they agreed, and so they got to work. In the seven years since that first phone call, Pete and WBC have assembled and donated hundreds of rocking horses and stick horses to the Toys For Tots program in Kalispell.
Sadly, Pete passed away earlier this year, but Western Building Center still works to make his dream a reality. For the past several years, local craftsman Chuck Hornbacher and Joe Welch’s 8th grade industrial arts class at Columbia Falls Junior High have helped with the creation of the rocking horses. Chuck worked hard this fall cutting out all the pieces for twenty-nine rocking horses and fifty stick horses, and employees at Western Building Center in Whitefish and Columbia Falls painted the horses and delivered them to Mr. Welch’s class for assembly. Once assembled, the students put the finishing touches on the horses – tails and ears – and sent them off to their new homes.
Western Building Center is proud to be a part of this new Flathead Valley tradition. Pete Darling is sorely missed, but with the help of friends like Chuck Hornbacher and Joe Welch’s class, his dream is still alive: every kid deserves a horse.