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'Petey' helping bring carousel to life

April 25, 2009 By CAROL DRAEGER South Bend Tribune

BUCHANAN - Silver Beach's carousel past is slowly coming to life, a horse at a time. Petey, in honor of special-needs riders, was recently unveiled at the Buchanan farm of Pat Forbes, who helps Berrien County children with disabilities ride real horses. The rust-colored wood-carved horse features pink redbud blossoms on its mane and a passage that reads: Enriching the mind, body and spirit. For Pat Forbes, that is what her program Reaching for Reins offers developmentally disabled youth. It is an activity that partners high school students at Cedar Lane alternative school in Niles with children with special needs. The older teens help the younger developmentally challenged children ride horses and learn stable and horse-care jobs. Forbes helped the Silver Beach Carousel Society fulfill its mission of re-creating the 48-figurine carousel by sponsoring Petey. Until the actual carousel is complete and set up at Silver Beach in November, Petey will be on display at the Niles-Buchanan YMCA in Niles. Suz Schalon of the Silver Beach Carousel Society, said for 10 years the group has been working on bringing to life the carousel of the 1930s that drew thousands of visitors to the St. Joseph beach until the amusement park closed in the early 1970s. So far, community members have helped sponsor 32 wood-carved horses, caricatures and two chariots, Schalon said. "We're waiting for the last 16," she said. Sponsorships have ranged from $50,000 to $8,000 depending on the size of the horse or creature and where it is placed on the carousel's platform, Schalon said. Master woodcarvers at the Ohio company, Carousel Works, are in the process of chiseling out three carousel animals. The idea is to "bring back memories," Schalon said but to also build a carousel that reflects today's families and the future. Forbes said she sponsored Petey in honor of a small Shetland pony she bought from a horse trader that was in "bad shape." After adding a few pounds to his frame, Petey became a favorite of the children. "He was so good with kids, he was just wonderful," Forbes said. But he died last November. "I wanted to name the special riders' horse Petey," she said, in memory of the Shetland. Staff writer Carol Draeger: cdraeger@sbtinfo.com (574) 235-6234