Snowball Express Flies Into Norfolk International Airport

A cadre of 280 volunteers made for a festive arrival at the Norfolk International Airport. Navy Office of Community Outreach

The Snowball Express—which brings together the children and surviving spouses of fallen US military heroes for a special trip to Disney World—arrived at the Norfolk International Airport on December 7 to deliver families to Orlando, the Navy Office of Community Outreach reported.

In 2006, the Snowball Express sprung from a heartfelt letter that a solider had written to his wife, that would be opened only if he didn’t return. Within its lines, he expressed his hope that they would visit Disneyland. Since that was one of the few things about the devastating time that could be readily addressed, a program was born that would help families make that trip—and start the healing process along the way.

American Airlines has participated in the program, and it estimates that this year 1,750 spouses and children flew on 13 chartered jets into Orlando. During the trip, families would have access to resources such as counseling services, as well as a variety of activities and entertainment. The Gary Sinise Foundation supports the program, and finds particular value in the event to honor fallen soldiers and those they leave behind. “While we can never truly repay the debt we owe these families, we can strive to show each of them our appreciation and gratitude whenever and wherever possible,” said Elizabeth Fields, COO of the Gary Sinise Foundation. “With the support and generosity of the American people and wonderful sponsors, we are honored to be able to give a little back by lifting spirits as we take these families to the happiest place on earth, the Walt Disney World Resort.”

For the Snowball Express event at KORF, volunteers from the surrounding Hampton Roads area demonstrated how important the program is to them, to assist them in supporting their military families. More than 280 service members and folks from the community joined in to greet and serve their very important guests.

Based in Maryland, Julie is an editor, aviation educator, and author. She holds an airline transport pilot certificate with Douglas DC-3 and CE510 (Citation Mustang) type ratings. She's a CFI/CFII since 1993, specializing in advanced aircraft and flight instructor development. Follow Julie on Twitter @julieinthesky.

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