American Airlines made this announcement:
On December 7, nearly 1,000 American Airlines team member volunteers will work with the Gary Sinise Foundation to bring more than 1,700 family members of fallen soldiers to Orlando, Florida, for five days of fun and fellowship at the 14th Annual Snowball Express. The event offers inspirational programs, fostering critical peer-to-peer support for them during the holiday season.
During the trip, families will visit Walt Disney World® Resort in Orlando, Florida, where they will also have direct access to complimentary resources such as counseling services; application support for educational scholarships; education about and access to medical and government benefits; financial counseling and assistance; mentoring; and aid for those with special needs or disabilities. Gary Sinise Foundation Snowball Express (GSF SBE) will offer a variety of activities and entertainment, including a concert from Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band.
As the official airline of GSF SBE, American is transporting the families from 87 cities via chartered and commercial flights. American’s 13 charter flights will bring the families to Orlando International Airport from every corner of the world, some stopping at up to three locations to pick up additional participants along the way.
- Charlotte, North Carolina
- Colorado Springs, Colorado
- Dallas-Fort Worth
- Fayetteville, North Carolina
- Kansas City, Missouri
- Killeen-Fort Hood, Texas
- Los Angeles
- Nashville, Tennessee
- New York
- Norfolk, Virginia
- Sacramento, California
- Salt Lake City
- San Antonio
- Washington, D.C.
American team members volunteer their time in a variety of ways, including hosting special send-off celebrations at each of the departure airports, staffing the flights, assisting with activities, “decking the gates” with holiday decorations and providing refreshments and entertainment — all to make sure Snowball Express families have a remarkable experience they’ll treasure forever.
“Ten years ago in Atlanta, my general manager told me we’d have the honor of hosting one of the Snowball Express charter stops at our station,” Nashville Customer Service Agent and Snowball Express volunteer coordinator Tammy Lake-Meyers said. “The whole team pulled together to create a winter wonderland departure for the families and I’ve passionately volunteered every year since.”
Tammy and hundreds of fellow American team members donate their time and talents each year to the families of those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice. “We hear a lot from the parents about how different their children are when they’re at Snowball,” Tammy said. “They can be happy and relax a little and not feel bad about it. Seeing the impact we have on these families and knowing we’re making a difference in their lives is incredibly rewarding.”
The annual Snowball Express event began in 2006, with a letter written by a fallen soldier to his wife, only to be opened should he perish in battle. While the letter expressed many hopes, one wish was that they visit Disneyland. Inspired by the letter, Snowball Express was created to bring together the children and surviving spouses of fallen U.S. military heroes for a healing retreat.