Gary Sinise is best known for playing Lieutenant Dan, the curmudgeonly commanding officer in Forrest Gump. And while he may not be a veteran in real life, he’s a well-known advocate for them and their families, including Gold Star Families — those who have lost a family member in the line of duty.
Every December, the Gary Sinise Foundation arranges an all-expenses-paid Disney trip for the Gold Star Families of military personnel who’ve died since September 11. The trip is called “Snowball Express,” and it’s been happening since 2006. The Gary Sinise Foundation took over its administration in 2017.
Snowball Express was originally inspired by a letter a soldier left for his wife to only be opened if he were to perish. He sadly did, and when she read the letter one of the things he wanted was for the entire family to take a trip to Disneyland.
This year, the foundation in partnership with American Airlines sent more than 1,700 children and widows to Disney World for five days of fun that the foundation hopes will have an impact that endures long after the families head back home.
“No matter where these families are in the grieving process, we hope to inspire them to believe anything is possible. By providing guilt-free fun and beneficial resources in a stress-free environment, we’re creating a community to learn, grow, and make lasting memories with new friends.”
The event is held in December to coincide with the holiday season, which can be a particularly challenging time for these families, but the Gary Sinise Foundation operates other initiatives year-round.
Gary Sinise Foundation Snowball Express families were celebrated this morning at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL whose cast members put on quite a show with fireworks, snow, and more as families paraded down Main Street U.S.A. to the Magic Castle. #GSFSBE #SnowballExpress pic.twitter.com/wLwZM1I6UX
— GarySiniseFoundation (@GarySiniseFound) December 10, 2019