Story by MC2 Justin A. Johndro
Navy Public Affairs Support Element West Det. Northwest
SEATAC, Wash. – Snowball Express, which provides service and support to children of the nation’s fallen military heroes, kicked off its 9th annual weekend bringing together children of our fallen military heroes, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEATAC) Dec. 11.
According to their website, the event, which started in 2006 and has been held in Dallas-Ft. Worth for the last six years, brings children together from all over the United States for a five-day life changing experience every December providing a fun, nurturing environment for each and every child. Snowball Express’ yearly event gives children ages 5-18 an opportunity to connect with others and share their feelings about losing something so precious: a family member. This year nearly 1,800 people will attend with 300 new families attending for the first time.
Stephanie Greopper, a military widow for six years lost her husband Army Spc. Chad Greopper, assigned to 4th Striker Brigade, in 2008.
“Clarissa was four months old when it happened,” said Greopper of her now 7 year old daughter. “Not many kids in day-to-day life have lost a parent that she has in the military service, so to meet others, to know she’s not alone, is amazing.”
In the Northwest region, more than 40 families gathered at SEATAC to kick off their five day excursion to Dallas-Ft. Worth.
The families were greeted by staff members of the airport’s United Services Organization (USO) and led to their Christmas-decorated departure terminal, where children were given personalized gifts from Santa Claus and his helpers.
Following the gifting, Santa requested that all in the terminal joined him in the singing of ‘Jingle Bells’ before departing.
A major airline sponsor of Snowball Express provided the flight to the Dallas area.
“This is my sixth or seventh year providing flight for these Gold Star children and their families,” said Capt. Jack, from Ft. Worth, Texas and a 30 year veteran pilot. “It’s really an honor to do this and one of the best things (we) can do. I’m just happy to be here for them.”
The mission of Snowball Express is to honor America’s fallen military service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice since 9/11 by humbly serving the families they left behind. Champion their children’s future success by creating opportunities for joy, friendship, education, and communal healing, by connecting these families to one another. Over ninety six percent of total contributions go directly to support its programs. To learn more about Snowball Express and to get involved please visit www.snowballexpress.org or on social media at: Facebook.com/SnowballExpressUSA, and follow them on Twitter @SnowballExpress.