SnowBall Express Finds New Steam with the Gary Sinise Foundation and Sends 2000 Gold Star Families To Disney
Gary Sinise And Snowball Express Send Almost 2000 Gold Star Families and Children To Disney
Millions of people grapple with Grief’s Holiday triggers. Among those who may struggle are thousands of widows and children of fallen Service members. While our grief is as raw and formidable as any Other’s, we are different in one incredible way; SnowBall Express.
Since 2006, Snowball Express has created Holiday magic for the children and widows of the Fallen.
Those of us who attended the very first year – knowing little about it and with no one to vouch for it – took a leap. We got on planes and flew across the country with escape plans on hand. We figured we were already living a nightmare; whatever this trip held could hardly be worse.
To our immense relief and profound awe, the all-expense paid trip was everything it promised to be, and more.
For twelve years, Snowball Express has continued to deliver one of the most unique, moving, and heartfelt experiences imaginable to the children and surviving parents of our fallen service members.
Because of the people who make this happen, our families have a new Holiday tradition to look forward to. We have created new and lasting friendships, and even a new family, from our years attending.
The amount of work and charitable contributions necessary to make this happen is mind-boggling. American Airlines, for instance, donates several charter flights to fly our families to and from this event. Each flight is staffed with a pilot and crew who donates his or her vacation time, to be a part of this. Patriot Guard riders and members walk each step with us.
From about 300 family members in 2006, to about 1700 children and widow(er)s in 2018, every single attendee is welcomed with open arms – and for most of those years, two of those arms have belonged to Gary Sinise.
It took Snowball Express Board Members just a few minutes with Gary Sinise to gain his support. Perhaps it would even be more fitting to say they had him at “Hello,” for the amount of patriotism and commitment to our military families running through Gary Sinise’s veins is unparalleled in any other supporter. He was instantly smitten with Snowball.
For over a decade, Gary Sinise has participated in Snowball Express, donating his time and sweat and smiles and hugs to our families.
We have seen him in the crowd welcoming us at the airport. We have seen him laughing with families who cross his path in the hotel. We have seen him on stage with his band, and on video expressing his support.
In 2017 Gary Sinise kicked it up a notch higher, as he announced that Snowball Express was now an official program of the Gary Sinise Foundation.
The already-amazing Gary Sinise Foundation is enhancing and sometimes changing the lives of military families around the world. From emergency assistance to new homes, to outreach and entertainment, and relentless support, this foundation does more for military families than any other we have ever seen and continues to extend its reach through new and unique programs like Soaring Valor, which blends high school students with WWII veterans in a powerful event.
Now, the Gary Sinise Foundation has officially wrapped its arms around Gold Star Children and Snowball Express by flying almost 2,000 of them to Disney for some Christmas cheer.
The Gary Sinise Foundation is non-profit that focuses on veterans, first responders, and their families. As part of its newly added program Snowball Express, the Gary Sinise Foundation sent over 1,000 people children from Gold Star families to Walt Disney World. Children, parents, and volunteers flew to Disney from around the country on special flights provided by American Airlines.
This video in Nashville, shows other travelers stopping what they were doing to join in a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. U.S. troops in the terminal stood at attention and saluted as the song was performed, and you can see bystanders drying their eyes in a Facebook video of the event.
There is nothing “lucky” about losing someone you love. There is not a single husband, wife, son, daughter, or other Loved One of a person deploying to combat who does not close their eyes and will that person to come home safely. There isn’t one of us who wouldn’t do anything to make that happen, and who doesn’t feel that sting of loss every single day.
But it is because of organizations like SnowBall Express and the Gary Sinise Foundation, and the people within, that that void relinquishes its power to consume us.
We are so grateful for Gary Sinise, his organization, and all the wonderful things Snowball Express does for the children of our fallen service members.
According to an Instagram post, the foundation is tracking 1,722 participants this year, including hundreds of kids, from over 650 families.
If you’re interested in supporting the Gary Sinise Foundation, which also builds adaptive homes for disabled veterans, hosts free theater nights for veterans, and helps pay for training and equipment for first responders, they are always accepting donations on their website and are part of the Combined Federal Campaign. Use CFC number 27963.
FOLLOW THE GARY SINISE FOUNDATION AND SNOWBALL EXPRESS
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