Children of Fallen Troops Find Solace in Snowball Express

Annual events help war widows and children realize they're not alone.

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By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

As de Tocqueville wrote nearly two centuries ago, America's greatness can be found in the spiritedness of its volunteers. It was the volunteer spirit that built this country and it is the volunteer spirit that has sustained it through some of its darkest hours, especially in times of war. And, where America's troops and their families are concerned, that spirit is alive and well.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 8,000 children have lost a U.S. service-member parent as a result of the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. To help these children succeed, to help them understand that they are valued and important, a group of folks founded an organization called Snowball Express, "a charity for the children of our fallen military heroes." Its mission is a simple one: to bring families experiencing the loss of a service-member parent together so that they can realize they are not alone.

Since 2006, Snowball Express has sponsored four-day long Christmas galas in the month of December for as many war widows and children as it can. In previous years, families have been to Disneyland and Universal Studios. This year, they are coming to Dallas, where the planned events include activities at the famous Southfork Ranch and the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium as well as a private concert by actor Gary Sinise's "Lt. Dan Band."

So far, with 45 days to go, there are more than 1,300 children and their families signed up to attend.

All of this is made possible because people are being generous with their time and treasure. Each year, Snowball Express raises several million dollars in cash and in-kind donations from individuals and corporate sponsors, managed by just one full-time paid employee, a former U.S. military chaplain.

Does all this matter? In a letter to the sponsors, one woman who attended Snowball Express said in part, "I lost my husband in 2005 in Iraq and my son, who was four at the time, always felt alone. He always said that he was the only one at his school who did not have a dad. Snowball Express has changed that for him and I would really like to extend my gratitude for making a difference in our lives and helping me to feel like there are people out there who do care..."

You bet it matters.

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