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2017 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Snowball Express

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Human Services, Military & Veterans Organizations, Veterans

Mission: 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.

Target demographics: the children of America's fallen military heroes

Geographic areas served: communities accross america

Programs: During the year Snowball Express hosts families of our fallen military heroes at many community events across the nation, providing them an opportunity to stay connected throughout the year. Each December we host the largest gathering in the world of children and families of fallen military. During our annual program held in ft worth, Texas, we bring together nearly 1,800 children and surviving spouses of our fallen military heroes. We plan and design events that enabled these children to meet other children just like them, make new friends, and we provided an opportunity for communal healing by connecting these families together. Over the 5 days in Texas, we host events throughout the community that connected the children and widows/widowers, and we also provided the public an opportunity to show their gratitude to these families for the tremendous sacrifices they have made for our freedom. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- highlights of our events: a welcome event to honor the families in ft worth, tx with a public walk of gratitude, a day at the movies and perot museum of nature and science, an evening at the fort worth joint reserve base, with a special performance to honor the families by gary sinise and the lt. Dan band, and a special show performed by shows in a box. We also provided educational and inspirational opportunities. In addition to the bonding that occurs during the events, we designed special rooms and family lounges that enabled both children and adults to relax each evening, connect, share with one another, and bond in a wonderful atmosphere. We also provide a family resource room at the hotel where we invite support organizations to meet with the families. The family resource room was designed to provide special support services to the families,and an opportunity to connect with these services. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------vet center counseling services: on-site at the hotel and mobile van at every off-site event (the mobile van traveled to each event and was available for counseling services if needed any time of the day) veterans administration: burial expenses, markers, headstones, death pensions, educational assistance (va, special needs, gi bill, etc), champva (health care), life insurance and any other va programs or applications for programs. Survivor outreach services: non-government volunteer group that helps with all of the above, plus financial investment counseling from experts gold star spouses: the primary mission of gsw is to provide service, support and friendship to the widows and widowers of military personnel who died on active duty or as the result of a service connected cause. Id cards and dependent enrollment: the vital item required to enter all of the above service related benefit programs. Probably our busiest unit, they were able to assist families with enrollment families and produced nearly 100 id cards. We also have members of the tragedy assistance program for survivors (t. A. P. S. ) present at every event. Taps certified grief counselors provide comfort and care through comprehensive services and programs including peer based emotional support, case work assistance, connections to community-based care, and grief and trauma resources.

Community Stories

147 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Writer

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I became involved with Snowball Express by way of my assignment in the Arizona National Guard. The AZNG had suffered several casualties during the War on Terror and these losses had a deep and profound impact throughout the force. In coordination with American Airlines, AZNG mustered about 50 volunteers to support the departure and arrival of Snowball Express families in Phoenix. This became an annual event and the volunteers, some of whom had known the fallen, unhesitatingly stood up. The growing sense of family was clearly evident and all participants looked forward to sharing their experiences as well as seeing the children grow and smile again. Personally, I donate to Snowball Express every year as I have seen for myself the joy and healing it brings to the ones left behind. Freedom is not free!

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Worked directly with Snowball Express for several when with Arizona National Guard. Got to know the operation through American Airlines and the families of the fallen. Such a noble and caring venture. The debt owed the families that suffered the ultimate sacrifice can never be repaid. The comments shared with me from the widows and children made it clear to me that Snowball Express is the real deal when it comes to giving hope and comfort to those who grieve.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

It has been my great honor to serve these precious familes of our Fallen Warriors for the last 6 years. As an American Airlines flight attendant, volunteering to bring our Snowball Express families to their special weekend is a very small way to say thank you for the sacrifice they have made to our country. Snowball Express provides a platform for these families to share experiences that can only be understood by others just like themselves. Snowball Express deserves every opportunity to continue providing this gift to these families.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering with Snowball Express for over 5 years now. What they continue to do day in and day out to ensure that the families of fallen service members are not forgotten is amazing. Being at many of their events you can see it on the families faces especially the kids that Snowball they appreciate what is being done for them at these events.

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a Volunteer for the last 4 years I have witnessed SB Express do all they can to make every kid fill welcomed at the annual event. Wheather it's their first time attending or they have been before. Watching these kids that have been through so much losing a parent just a chance to be a kid is priceless.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered for the first time last year. I had no idea what an impact the community has on Gold Star families. I was so honored to assist with a group like Snowball Express who really cared about each and every member of the family. Each staff member and volunteer exuded professionalism, integrity, but most of all...Love. It is an amazing organization to be a part of and support.

1 gigibabe007

Client Served

Rating: 5

Snowball Express has been a blessing for my son. This is the ONLY event he looks forward year after year. He has created everlasting friendships and memories that has helped him cope with the loss of our hero. As a parent this has been rewarding to see my son smile and have fun for those 5 days where he gets to be a normal happy kid. This will be his last year attending as a goldstar child because he is aging out, yet he has taken upon himself to continue to come back as a volunteer. This is how much of an impression snowball express has made on my son and myself. We are forever grateful for the experience and are looking forward to volunteering in the future. #payitforward

Previous Stories
2

Client Served

Rating: 5

We are one of many gold star families that attend each year. We lost our fallen hero in 2007 and have been graciously blessed to have attended snowball express. This event has touched our lives in more ways i can ever express, i have watched my son go from shy to very sociable because of snowball and the ability for him to interact with other families and children who are in the same position we are in. Theres no need to explain yourself and why ur here, as its already understood. My son and i look forward to this every year because its almost like a giant family reunion. The volunteers are amazing, always with a smile on their face and ready to play w the kids. I dont know where they get all that energy, nevertheless we are blessed and thankful to have them. And to Mr. Buck Kern and the members of the board, without ur strategic planing and fundraising this event wouldnt be possible. Thank u for everything u have done for us we are forever grateful and thankful to everyone involved. The smile on my sons face is priceless and i dont often get to see it... until snowball time and then it turns into a non stop contagious smiling and laughing for days! Thank you!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have served as a volunteer for Snowball Express for the last five years. It is an experience that has allowed me to give back in a small way to the families of those men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for my freedom. To see the smiling faces of their kids and know that this time at Snowball Express is healing their spirits is a gift to me. I have watched friendships grow and families come together during their time at Snowball. It is an awesome program and it is run by exceptional, giving volunteers.

Previous Stories
1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

A wonderful organization committed to serving the children of our military men/women who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom since 9/11. I have worked for the past four years in the command center and have witnessed volunteers going above and beyond their assignments in order to make sure that these kids have a fun and healing experience. It is awesome to see how such a monumental undertaking unfolds each year and the growth that the organization has made.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Last year was my first year to volunteer with Snowball Express. I was so blessed to be a part of something that was so impactful for the families of our fallen soldiers. I plan to volunteer for many more years. I tell everyone I know about this organization and their events.

Blessed Beyond Measure

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was part of the working crew members for SBE 2016. We flew into LAX to decorate the plane the night before. In the morning, we flew families of fallen heroes from LAX to SMF to PHX, then finally DFW. It was the most exhausting day of my entire 33 year career at American Airlines, but the most memorable. I have signed up again this year to help make special moments for the heroes families. It is definitely a worthwhile event to be a part of.

1 Eric C.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The people that volunteer are so committed to the children they serve. It is awesome to be a part of the team to serve our veterans

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Snowball Express was and continues to be our rainbow after the storm. They know how to make our families feel loved and included. We have made some lifetime friends and unforgettable memories. They give some much and ask for NOTHING in return. We love SBE!

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I'm a flight attendant for American Airlines and every year I volunteer for Snowball express to bring the families of our fallen soldiers to Dallas ...we decorate the airplane for Christmas we decorate ourselves we fly from base to base picking up the families feeding them ,laughing with them ,singing with them ,giving them gifts and bring them to Dallas for an amazing few days of fun and frolic... These children and family members of the soldiers that have served our country ...need and deserve a little cheer and happiness in their lives because their losses have been huge... It's a very rewarding amazing and humbling experience to be part of the Snowball express family ...

1 Debbie LoPresto B.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Snowball Express is an absolutely amazing organization that sends military widows/widowers and their children on an all expense paid 5 day trip where you are surrounded not only by a couple thousand people that have experienced similar loss and trials as you but also by volunteers who love on you, support you and honor your fallen soldier. It is a time of bonding and making new friendships that last a lifetime along with having fun and opportunities you might otherwise not be able to experience. The city of Dallas/Ft Worth opens their arms up to us. We have police escorts, fireman and civilian lining the streets and highways we travel and a Walk of Remembrance that will make anyone tear up as you see the love and support they give us. During the day we do all sorts of fun activities and at night they take the kids and let us have a much needed break. Another really neat event they do is taking the kids "shopping" in the Neiman Marcus store so they can get their surviving parent a Christmas gift. Before my son attended Snowball Express, I never got a present from him as his daddy was the one that would always take the kids out to buy presents for me. You laugh, you cry, you have fun and meet new people and strengthen the relationships with those you may only see once a year at this event. Thanks for the memories, Snowball Express!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am grateful and humbled for the opportunity to serve with and for Snowball Express. I know their mission, vision, and goals. As one who volunteers with Snowball Express I watch miracles take place everyday of Snowball Express.
I watch children who have walked through tragedy at a young age that most of us could not even imagine. I see these precious children of our honored fallen heroes encounter understanding and form meaningful relationships with peers who know and have known in real time the challenges they face and overcome. I see joy come into the faces of the children that as a civilian I would have thought would be impossible. I watch these children, parents, guardians, and grandparents gain increased strength, vision, new dreams, and restored purpose.

I come to Snowball Express to serve these families I have grown to love in whatever manner possible. When I made the decision to volunteer for Snowball Express I asked myself “Why do you want to serve?”. I continued to ponder this for a few days.
I thought of our Gold Star families’ fallen Hero. Then came my answer. These words wrote on my heart from the perspective of their Hero (their mom, dad or both):
“ You want to thank me, you want to honor me, then take care of my family”.

This is my “Why”.

Serving with Snowball Express is fun and fulfilling. But do not mistake it is not easy. We work and do whatever it takes to provide our Gold star families with happy memories.
The only way to serve optimally in this venue is to be willing to give it all you got and this is different for each person.
The leadership and staff of Snowball Express watch out and care for our Gold star families, volunteers, and staff so you do not have to be a rocket scientist or an olympian. Just be someone who comes with their heart and commitment. The staff and captains will provide you with the directions needed to serve. You do not need to be a veteran or belong to an organization although all are welcome.
I went online and read about Snowball Express’s mission, vision, goals, and results. I filled out the online form to volunteer. I am not part of a group just an individual civilian. Snowball Volunteer services reached out to me and that is how I started.
This year will be my fourth year to serve with Snowball Express. What I began to realize
over the years is how much Snowball Express has changed me. My heart has enlarged in ways I do not have the words to express.

Volunteering with Snowball Express is a treasured opportunity. The lives touched every year is priceless.

Respectfully,
Fostina W. Gurley

1

Donor

Rating: 5

I know kids of fallen soldiers that love the things this organization does for them. I am a huge fan of Snowball Express based on the information I get from them.

1 Jim D.2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is the best help for the children of fallen, my wife have been working with pleasure in the sewing room putting patches on leather vest the P G R gives them, what a joy to be involved with this.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Last year was my first experience with Snowball Express. Working with the people in this organization and seeing how they help people is incredible. I will be volunteering my time this year and every year as long as I am able.

1 Darryl Egg S.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

What an unbelievable showing of support to our families of those that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country! American Airlines employees, many of whom are USAF Veterans, take such great pride in supporting this charity!

1 Scott J.1

Donor

Rating: 5

It is an incredible organization!!! All you have to do....is see the look on the kids faces!!!

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

This will be our 3rd and final Snowball. My son is graduating H.S. next year. I am so grateful to ALL Snowball Express Staff and volunteers. My Son and my Husband were each others, Best Buddies. He is an introverted, except when he is at Snowball with the friends he met 3 yrs ago. They keep in contact periodically via text We live in an area, with no military facilities or familes nearby. So, Being a part of the Snowball family has, given us the opportunity to meet life long friends. Who understand us full of joy and laughing and maybe 5 minutes later cryjng our eyes out.

Snowball is the number ONE Non-Profit in my family.

Donna Shannon
Spouse of SFC Michael P.D. Shannon
Kabul, Afghanistan 2010




1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Best and most satisfying event you could ever do in your life.