Gary Sinise Partners With American Airlines, Treats 1,000 Children of Fallen Soldiers to Disney World for Free

Gary Sinise

You may know him as Lieutenant Dan from Forest Gump, or recognize his stone-cold stare from movies like The Green Mile and Apollo 13. In his newest filmI Still Believewhich hits theaters March 13th, Gary Sinise plays Tom Camp, father of beloved Christian artist, Jeremy Camp.

Gary Sinise has built his career on movie screens, but he’s built a life of serving others.

 

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On Saturday, November 2, Gary Sinise became the first civilian to receive the Sijan Service Award given to an individual whose actions of service and sacrifice demonstrate the same spirit and character as that of United States Air Force Captain and Medal of Honor recipient, Lance Sijan. In the latest blog post, find out why Lance Sijan is revered by United States Airmen past and present, whose courageous actions after ejecting from his F4-Phantom over the skies of Laos in November 1967 exemplifies the highest qualities of a leader devoted to serving others and the ideals of a nation. This is a story of how two men, born decades apart and whose path in life appears to have gone in opposite directions, ultimately crossed the same threshold, which connects their life’s work of serving their nation for a cause much greater than themselves. Tap on the link in bio to read the story about the 2019 Sijan Service Award. 👆

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In 2011, he founded the Gary Sinise Foundation, which exists to honor and serve U.S. military veterans and their families. According to the foundation’s website, they do this “by creating and supporting unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen, and build communities.”

One of those programs is called Snowball Express.

The initiative was officially adopted by the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2017, and honors fallen U.S. soldiers by offering community-driven events for their families throughout the year.

“All year long, Gary Sinise Foundation Snowball Express serves the families of fallen military heroes with monthly community events and gatherings that forge essential bonds and lasting friendship. From the Georgia Aquarium, Six Flags Magic Mountain, and the North Carolina Zoo to Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming, your donations are directly touching the lives of our nation’s youth who have lost a mother or father while in service to the defense and freedom of the United States.”

Then every December, the foundation hosts a five-day retreat for children of the fallen and their surviving parent or guardian.

Last month, for the second year in a row, the Gary Sinise Foundation brought Snowball Express to the happiest place on earth: Walt Disney World!

In partnership with American Airlines, the foundation was able to get over 1,000 Gold Star Children and their surviving parent or guardian — 1,750 people total from 87 cities across the nation — to Orlando for a week of stress-free, guilt-free, and financially free fun.

The program is described “as a therapeutic retreat with a blend of fun and inspiring programs, these families can learn on their peers for support.”

“It isn’t easy to put into words what Snowball Express meant to my 8-year-old daughter and me but I will try,” said Jennifer Hanson, a widow and mother honored by the Gary Sinise Foundation. “I guess the easiest way to explain it is to simply state that it was the first time since losing my husband that I went 5 days in a row without crying. Sure, there were a few moments of filling up with tears. However, those were tears of gratitude and pride.”

“The most important thing about [Snowball Express] is that these children don’t feel alone,” Sinise says. “There’s a lot of healing and a lot of bonding and a lot of friendship that goes on that helps them through the rest of the year.”

Since 2018, a growing 5,250 children of fallen military heroes & their surviving parent or guardian have joined Snowball Express for community events.

“No matter where these families are in the grieving process, we hope to inspire them to believe anything is possible,” the website says. “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.”

For more information about how you can be involved in the incredible work the Gary Sinise Foundation is doing, visit their website. And be sure to catch Gary Sinise in I Still Believe, coming to a theater near you on March 13th.


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Bri Lamm
Bri Lamm is the Editor of ForEveryMom.com! An outgoing introvert with a heart that beats for adventure, she lives to serve the Lord, experience the world, and eat macaroni and cheese all while capturing life’s greatest moments on one of her favorite cameras. Follow her on Facebook!