12/4/2020, 12:05 PM (Source: GlobeNewswire)

Los Angeles, California, Dec. 04, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Award-winning actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise and his foundation today announced the kickoff of their annual Snowball Express event that serves and honors the families of fallen military heroes, taking place this Friday, December 4th – Sunday, December 6th, 2020. Snowball Express is a year-long initiative of the Gary Sinise Foundation that provides support, healing, and a community to the children of fallen military heroes and their surviving parents and guardians, typically culminating with a five-day trip to the Walt Disney World® Resort in Orlando, Florida. To protect the safety of the participating Gold Star families during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Gary Sinise Foundation has pivoted the annual event to a virtual celebration, offering a series of surprise celebrity guests, an entertaining opening ceremony, various resource groups designed to aid the families in the grieving process, and a special virtual concert put on by Gary Sinise & the Lt. Dan Band. 2,054 families of the fallen were invited to participate in this virtual celebration planned for the holiday season: a particularly challenging time for those who have experienced the loss of a loved one.

“With the support of our partners and sponsors, the Gary Sinise Foundation Snowball Express has been able to carry on a message of gratitude, remembrance, and appreciation for these incredibly deserving families. Our Snowball Express initiative provides an important space for these families to meet each other, connect, and through this network of support, they come to know they are not alone,” said actor/humanitarian Gary Sinise, the foundation’s Founder and Chairman. “We want to create moments of joy and new, happy memories for these families before the holidays, which is a very difficult time for a child who has lost a parent - and through this important GSF initiative we let them know that their loved ones - a mom or dad or a spouse who died in military service – will never be forgotten.”

No matter where these families may be in their grieving process, Snowball Express aims to provide a memorable experience where Gold Star families can access support, create new bonds, make positive memories, and build a community with the only people who can truly understand their loss: each other.  

The virtual celebration recreates two of the most moving and poignant moments of the in-person event, both of which serve as a tribute to the fallen heroes: the Remembrance Garden and the Walk of Gratitude. This year, the Gary Sinise Foundation created an interactive virtual walk-through of the Remembrance Garden with a flag representing the fallen hero from each of the 2,000+ Gold Star families in the program, providing an opportunity for the families to search and directly find the flag and placard honoring their loved one. The Walk of Gratitude is a ceremony led by Gary Sinise from Los Angeles and Mickey Mouse from the Walt Disney World® Resort in Orlando, Florida, where families write a personal message to their fallen hero on a scroll, and the children then ring bells to send the messages, with the help of a little Disney® magic, to the moms and dads they lost.  

In addition to surprise celebrity appearances and family fun such as virtual dance parties and karaoke, the Snowball Express virtual celebration also provides comprehensive and meaningful support to the families including peer-to-peer support groups, counseling services, application support for educational scholarships, financial counseling and assistance, and more. 

Snowball Express 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 things, one wish was that they visit Disneyland.  From that letter, Snowball Express was created to bring together the children and surviving spouses of fallen U.S. military heroes for a healing retreat.

Snowball Express is made possible by the Gary Sinise Foundation’s generous donors and corporate partners including American Airlines, WoodmenLife, Aerotek, Lowe’s, and many other key partners. 

The Gary Sinise Foundation was established under the philanthropic direction of award-winning actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise, who has been an advocate of our nation’s defenders for nearly forty years. The Foundation’s mission is to serve our nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need. Its programs—designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen, and build communities—serve America’s heroes and their loved ones 365 days a year. Learn more:


Marielle Gilbert
Gary Sinise Foundation
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