Gary Sinise performs on stage during a Snowball Express concert.
Updated: December 19, 2012 12:27PM
The holidays can be an especially difficult time for a child who has lost a parent.
That’s why, every December, I donate a concert with my Lt. Dan Band — named after my character in “Forrest Gump” — to support Snowball Express, an organization founded to provide hope and new memories for the children of our fallen heroes.
I got involved shortly after the organization held its first event back in 2006. The following December, my band performed at the Grove Theater in Anaheim, Calif., for 900 kids from all over America who had lost parents killed in action serving in the military. It was an emotional experience to play for so many children who were all going through the same thing, but that is part of the healing power of the Snowball weekend. These children meet and bond with each other as they can see and feel that they are not alone. It’s an amazing thing to witness.
The first three events were held in Anaheim so the kids could also have a lot of fun at Disneyland. American Airlines was also an early supporter, and as they got more involved, and the number of children grew to over 1,200 each year, they decided to move the annual event to their home city of Dallas. The city rolls out the red carpet for the kids, and AA donates nine airplanes and dozens of additional tickets to fly the children and surviving spouses in for the four-day fun-filled event. More than 800 volunteers come together to make sure the kids have a great time. American Airlines pilots and crew all volunteer their time to get the children there and back, and so many dedicated people in Dallas lend a hand.
Each year has been special: One year my band played at Mesquite Rodeo, one year we played at the famous Gilley’s Dallas and one year we even got to play on the field inside Dallas Cowboys Stadium. I have loved supporting these kids so much that I became a board member and continue to play concerts each year.
On Dec. 2, I will once again travel to Dallas to show these children the appreciation and support they deserve for what they have gone through — losing a mom or a dad in service to our country. Sadly, we have thousands of these children.
My foundation is a proud supporter of Snowball Express, and as the holidays approach I encourage you to take a look at their website at Snowballexpress.org.
Gary Sinise donated his fee for this column to his foundation, Garysinisefoundation.org.