Thank You Messages From Snowball Express Families and Friends
December 9, 2012
It was my first year to be apart of SBE, and was amazing. I really don’t know how to say thank you for what you all have done for us. My oldest son is not much of a talker when it comes to his fathers death but he did at SBE, he got to meet some kids in his age and talk about it, and that eased my heart knowing that he did.Â The dayÂ we got to NC my kids already said we want to go next year again, I told them we did not even make it to Texas yet, they said we don’t care we already made new friends, and we did. TheÂ whole event was amazing there are noÂ words to describe how unbelievable the staff is, the Patriot Guard and the rest are to us. It is like one big happy family and it truly is. I can’t wait for next year.
December 9, 2012
I think you have an amazing team from volunteers, workers, sponsors, everything was so overwhelming but in a great way! I cried, I laughed and watched my children forget what they went through 8 months ago when they lost there dad, I watched them be kids because of you all and I can never thank you enough you all went above and beyond to have our families. You made our loved one who died a hero and never once that weekend were they forgotten and for that I thank you!
SSG Blake Whistler
December 11, 2012
Dear Snowball Express,
I wanted you to now what Snowball Express means to my girls and me:
Snowball Express is great and I'm so happy we found it. Last year was our first year to attend and to be honest my oldest daughter (13 at the time) did not want to go. I talked her into going and at the end of the first night she came to me and asked if we could come back every year! Â You cannot imagine how happy that made me. I saw her open up and actually talk about her dad to her new friends. She has kept in contact with them over the year and was so excited to see them again this year. They all found each other right away and spent the whole 4 days together!
My younger daughter (9 at the time) still was not sure about leaving mom but this year she came out of her shell and made a new friend named Asia. She wanted to go to the kids lounge and didn't want to leave until they had too. That just made my heart smile.Â
I know none of this would not be possible if it wasn't for all the great people involved and the donations provided. I would personally like to thank everyone associated with Snowball Express. You definitely have made a difference in our lives and words cannot express how thankful we are!
December 9, 2012
I can't thank you enough for the 5 wonderful years of trips and memories you have provided for my 3 daughters and me.Â Our very first trip was to California where my daughters were 7, 6 and 5 (turned 5 on the trip at Disneyland!) years old.Â I was still feeling very overwhelmed with raising my small daughters and not sure how to incorporate the loss of their dad intoÂ our lives.Â How do I tell/show my kids that the loss of their dad, and their sacrifice really, means something more?Â Well, I quickly discovered that Snowball Express would step in to help me with this!Â Over the course of these 5 years, my girls have grown to understand what a hero their daddy was and how our country appreciates his service and ultimate sacrifice.Â The girls are SO proud that they had a dad that was a soldier.Â I can't thank you enough for giving them THAT.Â Not only have my daughters grown to know their dad as a hero, they have also become stronger and happier.... they are now the kids providing support to kids that have more recently lost their mom or dad.Â On this last trip my middle daughter, who is now 10 yrs old, had become connected at the hip with a girl who had lost her mom.Â The very last night of our trip when they were in the kids' zone, they made aÂ fort and climbed in for a private place to talk.Â This 10-year-old girl, then started to cry...and cry... about the loss of her mom (who is now being raised by her grandparents).Â My daughter said she wasn't sure what to say or do.... but just told her to let it all out.Â To me, this is what Snowball Express is all about.... giving kids the opportunity to be with other kids who have gone through the same thing...and finding support and strength in those friendships.Â ALL of my girls have made these friendships.Â Each and every year the circle has grown and we look forward to seeing everyone.... and when they do, it is like no time has passed at all.Â
To sum it all up.... Snowball Express givesÂ our familiesÂ a way to move forward without our loved one in a way that is positive for our kids and us.Â It provides the support and love thatÂ we all need.... the time to reflect and be withÂ eachÂ other.Â Our kids NEED this, but theÂ moms need this too.Â My kid’s absolute favorite thing to do on the trip is going to the kids' zones.Â My favorite thing to do is the adult lounge.Â Why?Â We need our time "in the fort" to let it all out.Â
So thank youÂ for ALL that Snowball Express and its supporters do for us!
Jill, Grace, Paige & Cooper
December 9, 2012
Before I proceed down any further I would just like to express my huge Thank You for all that you do for families like us, not only you but also the whole organization and everyone in it. This year my two little girls lost our Soldier due to a Heart Attack during PT one morning and it was all a tragic moment for us but we are doing better and just simply doing our best to Live and not just Exists in this life on earth with out him. When my husband diedÂ a kind lady at the SOS center in Hawaii educated me about the Snow Ball Express that happens annually for children like my own. I wasn't so sure if going this year was too soon or not, but when I looked at my two little girls and how they have been struggling in school and just showing all kinds of grief, I then put my self aside and signed up for the trip not knowing how over whelming it would have been.Â
Words can never explain just how much the Snow Ball Express means to me and my children. The word Thank You does not seem to suffice all of what I would like to express as a great gratitude for all that has been shown to me and my family this year we attended. I love everything about the Organization, we were treated like kings and queens, we were treated with so much respect and honor that not even one can breath in our normal life. I felt the Genuine love and comfort from all the people and volunteers everywhere we went, I saw so much love, smiles. and just met some great people. The last time I had any treatment like this was when my husband was alive. He was the soldier and yet was honoring me, and honoring my children for always holding down the fort as he would call it. My children and I always honored him for all he does for us and our country, but i never thought that an Organization such as the Snow Ball could ever bring back some great same feelings that are very personal and special to me and my children.Â
I never knew that American Airlines played a huge part in the organization and for that I now will be flying American Airlines from now on because nothing can ever change the train of thought to my mind about just how much support they have and continue to give to families like my self. I use to think that United was the best due to my mileage card but now that does not even matter to me. What matters is to me now more than ever is the constant cycle of life. Because of American Airlines, Snow Ball Express, Pizza Hut, Chili's and all the other great supporters are the reason why people like my self chose to Live even if we have lost. I feel so much warmth knowing that even when my husband died that he is still remembered and that we his family are still supported but people like you.
M kids and I love the Snow Ball Express and will be coming back every year for as long as they need it. We Thank God for people like you and for showing my kids and I a very awesome and educational experience at the Snow Ball.Â
December 10, 2012
This year was our first Snowball Express and while we were there, we marked our 5th month anniversary of losing my husband. It isn't easy to put into words what Snowball Express meant to my 8 year old daughter and me but I will try. Â 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. Â Sure, there were a few moments of filling up with tears. Â However, those were tears of gratitude and pride as our group was shown so much love and respect from the citizens of DFW and the Snowball Staff and Volunteers. Â Many people have asked me what my favorite part of the experience was. Â My answer to them is also simple. Â My favorite part was having so much fun with my daughter and seeing the joy in her face and witnessing her unbridled laugh for the first time in a long time. Â It was 5 days of feeling a bit more normal in the most abnormal year of my life. Â
My hat goes off to you and everyone involved in planning and carrying out this event. Â I can't begin to fathom how difficult the logistics of pulling off an event like this is but I believe you guys did an amazing job. Â Many thanks for a wonderful experience. Â I hope to see you next year!
Received from a first time Snowball Express child
December 10, 2012
My name is Serenity R.E. Straughter and my mother's name is Dezyrae R. Smith.Â My father Matthew F.C. Straughter gave his life and made the ultimate sacrifice for this countryÂ on Jan, 31, 2008.Â This is what Snowball 2012 meant to myself and my mother.Â This was our first year at Snowball, we hear about Snowball threw another fallen family, she is a BFF to my mother.Â This is the best thing my mother's BFF could have informed her about. My mother was not sure about Snowball, so she did her research and signed us both up.Â While at Snowball I had aÂ lot fun I got to go to six flags for the first time and it was fun. I loved the people an IÂ loved the hotel.Â The kids room was great.Â AtÂ the end of theÂ tripÂ I was sadÂ ,Â because we had to leave so my mother and I will come ever year for 8 years,Â because I am 10 years old.Â My mom said I can come to Snowball until I'm 18.Â FYI Snowball rocks, Snowball is the bomb.com I can't until 2013 Snowball event.Â Thanks again for providing myself and mother with such a great experience, it was greatly needed.Â Thankx for this lovely yearly event.
Serenity R.E. Straughter
December 14, 2012
Dear Snowball Express,
Words are just a simple way to express the feelings you have inside..........they need meaning, thoughts, pictures sometimes to back them up. My family has been apart of snowball express since its inception. The vision and organization has been the lifeline for my kids and myself. We were two years into our grief already; my children had become quiet, withdrawn to some extent in school and in life. Attending that first year of snowball express, and all the magic and love felt there by so many strangers who really truly cared about us was just a feeling we will never ever forget. It brought them both out of their shells and putÂ much needed smiles back on their faces...........there was no greater joy for me, than to see my kids happy again.
Each year after that, especially at that difficultÂ time of year the holidays roll around, my kids and myself anticipated our journey to be with others who understood the pain and anguish we were going through. Year after year, the lifelong friends we made, with other families and with the volunteers who make this so very special for all of us...whom weÂ now call "family".
I will ALWAYS be forever grateful to all involved with the snowball express organization for the love and support they gave my family over time and for the much needed support and love we need in the future. May God continue to bless all those involved.
Mrs. Mary Bourdon and family
January 2, 2013
DearÂ Snowball Express,
The first time my son Elijah met another military surviving child was at snowball.Â A young boy approached him and said, "your daddy died in the war too?" My son later told me that he felt safe being with other kids who didn't know their dads either; often feeling left out at home with mostlyÂ 2 person families.Â It was then I decided that every year we were invited I would do what I can to make sure my child built this network of families he could relate to.Â Several years later we have both built a strong community of support and many life long friendshipsÂ through Snowball. Elijah counts down the days until take off starting in July!!Â I am ever so grateful for the love Dallas, Snowball, all of the sponsors and volunteers, show us.Â
December 15, 2010
As I sit here on the Snowball Express website and read testimonials, I am tearing up. It was such a wonderful time for me and my daughters Sarrah and Dawn.
See, the day after we arrived home from Snowball III, I fell in the snow and fractured my lower back. I was in some pain last year at SBE IV, but “sucked it up”.
This year, in June of 2010, I was diagnosed with lung cancer. I underwent 33 radiation treatments and 12 weeks of chemotherapy. I have massive upper back pain, and we are not sure if it is caused by the radiation to my lung or just lack of muscle strength. We are working to find the reason why.
Not knowing whether I was even going to be able to attend this year, I contacted MickiÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ Sander in July and discussed my situation with her. In Oct. I was cleared by my Doctors to attend SBE V. Snowball was able to fly my daughter Dawn to Dallas to help out with her little sister. I am so glad they did because Sarrah had someone to ride rides with, walk around Southfork with, ride horses with, and do many other things that I was unable to do this year.
Apparently, there were a few people that were not very understanding as to why Dawn was there. They felt it was wrong, that she didn’t belong there, but my husband was her dad too. She did deserve to be there, but because of circumstances, she is not eligible.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ I just thank God that there are understanding people who know that just because your cancer free at the time, does not mean you don’t suffer any ill effects.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ Micki, you’re the greatest!
For this…I thank you.
To the Dallas Police and the PGR:
To the Fort Worth SOS:
To the volunteers of SBE V:
December 30, 2010
I just want to say "Thank you!" to everyone involved with SBE this year. My daughter, Alyssa, and I had a wonderful time!ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ This year meant more to usÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ than you can imagine.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ It's been almost three years, but Alyssa has been having a difficult time lately now that she is getting older and understanding more. When I asked her what she enjoyed the most, her answer was quite surprising.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ I expected her to tell me Southfork Ranch because she wants to take riding lessons after spending time with the horses there. However, she told me she liked being with people who didn't treat her like a superhero. She said people treat her differently when they find out that her dad died in the war. At SBE she is just like everyone else. I am so thankful to SBE for giving her this opportunity to be "a normal kid"!
December 15, 2010
Bob and Micki Sander,
Dana Lamberson here, we met at Snowball Express last year, but really had a chance to chat more this year 2010. My son Evan really enjoyed hanging out in the Teen Room and riding on the bus with your granddaughter (s?). Evan and I enjoyed ourselves. Thank ya kindly for a Texas Style Hospitality, most impressive! Now, if I could get in touch with the wagon driver named David Beard whom I met at Southfork Ranch. He was such a nice gentleman and made polite conversation as we all ate lunch together. I wanted to send him a Thank You Letter.
We've gone for 5 years now. I remember our first Snowball in December 2006 in California. Rand was Killed In Action in Iraq in April 2006.
I did not know (nor felt like) celebrating Rand's favorite time of year, Christmas, without him. So, I told the kids we will "try" Snowball Express.
My son asked if he could be a volunteer when he becomes too old to attend!
It was nice meeting and chatting with you, though briefly, and wish it were under better circumstances.
Much Respect and Appreciation,
December 17, 2010
Hi Snowball Express!
It is a balmy 14 degrees right now! The lakes are frozen over and there will be snow on the ground until April! We are settling into this new environment, but finding the change to be a good one. We miss our friends and the Navy, but the peaceful, slower-paced lifestyle is a nice change.
Thank you again for helping us with our travel arrangements this year. It was so nice to meet you in person and be able to put a face with a name. We had a taxing week before our trip to Dallas, with the packing up and moving of our household goods (11 years worth of memories!), but how wonderful that we could follow that emotional task with Snowball Express! We are so thankful for this amazing organization and all of the generous volunteers and sponsors that make it possible. My oldest, Tayler, is hoping that she can come back as a mentor with TAPS next year as she will be 19. She wants to give back and is working on make that hope a reality (Tayler was the teen who spoke on behalf of all the teens when they presented Micki Sander with the teddy bear at the dinner.)
I also want to thank you for allowing TAPS to be a part of the Snowball Express experience. The TAPS mentors, esp. Shawn Callan and a Marine named Chris (I don't know his last name but he has made a connection with my son), have reached out to my children (and countless others). They unselfishly give their time to assist families in need and to guide and mentor our children. My kids lost their hero the day their Dad died. They were fortunate to have many wonderful years and memories with him and they have much of him in them. They miss his playful spirit, unconditional love, and fatherly advice. They are fortunate to have a lot of strong and loving men in their lives (uncles, friends, etc.), but have also found comfort in the connections that they have made with Shawn and Chris. Shawn and Chris check up on them throughout the year, and reconnect with them at Snowball and TAPS. I am thankful for this invaluable program.
I have concluded that I will leave the speaking to the press up to my children who are much better at organizing their thoughts and putting them into words! I sound a bit "disturbed" in the article when she speaks of me carrying a family photo around in a plastic bag! Ha Ha!!! She failed to mention that in that bag also contained all of my Snowball paperwork and flight information. She also made it sound like my husband didn't know how to text by leaving out the part that he figured out how to "go on the computer and text" while deployed into North Arabian Sea. Oh well...I need to not worry so much! News channel 10 (WAVY) followed us at the airport and did a piece for the news cast. I asked that my children be interviewed instead of me and when I saw that broadcast it cemented my resolve to "just say no" to interviews! Tayler did a GREAT job on a TV interview in Colorado Springs before heading to Dallas. The send off was amazing as we walked through the military men and women who greeted us at the top of the escalator. It was a very emotional experience...especially since we are a Navy family.
We have all been profoundly affected by the kindness of the entire Snowball Express organization. We have made life long friends whom we consider part of our family now. "Thank you" just doesn't seem adequate to convey how much we appreciate everything that Snowball Express and Dallas have done for us!
Happy Holidays to you and your family!
December 15, 2010
Dear Snowball Express,
WOW - Snowball Express V and the PGR
December 15, 2010
Dear Snowball Family,
Friday,ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ December 17, 2010
December 16, 2010
I hope the trip was a grand success for everyone and the upcoming holidays find everyone involved happy and healthy! My son and I have never missed a Snowball Express and this year were devastated to find out 24 hours prior to leaving we could not attend. I ended up having a partial foot amputation and was unable to drive or walk. I have emailed several people involved with the trip and called the command center during the trip many times to inquire if we could at least get snowball express t shirts and anything (like a program of events) to use in our yearly update to our snowball scrapbooks. We have not received any replies or responses, and my 14 year old son was devastated when I told him we could not attend. His friends called from the trip and said they had a great time.If there is anyway you could locate a t-shirt for him I would ever so grateful. I know how busy you must be, understandably, but this would mean a very great deal if someone could find one for him.
December 15, 2010
Dear all of Snowball Staff and Volunteers,
December 15, 2010
Thank you so much for a wonderful Snowball Vacation. The kids and I had a great time.
December 15, 2010
This was the first time volunteering for such a hart warming event.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ I really enjoyed talking to the parents and children making sure they had all they needed or directed to were they needed to be.
December 16, 2010
Dearest SBE Board & Volunteers,
We are so grateful to participate in our 5th SBE.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ My 11 year old was over the moon to get there!!!
We are always grateful to be able to enjoy the events that you have planned and see parts of your city/state that we wouldn't likely have visited before, but we are most energized and encouraged by the warmth of the volunteers and being able to reconnect with the friends we've made.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ Dylan (my son) and I have bonded with 3 other women who have had truly encouraged us through some challenging times throughout the year.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ The value in having this connection is priceless and I highly doubt we would have enjoyed the gift had it not been for SBE.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ One of our last nights at SBE V, Doug Tabor of Air Logistics, invited us to meet a first time mom & her son.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ It was the most rewarding experience I've EVER had at SBE.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ My friend (Misti Williamson) and I spent a half an hour sitting with Panthea and Kermit in the small hallway of their hotel room at 10:30 at night.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ We talked in abbreviated sentences, understanding the spoken language - finishing each other's thoughts and sentences; it was so encouraging for my heart to be able to give something when so much has been given to me.
When we finished our meeting with the first time family, Misti and I ran back excitedly to our other two friends (MaLisa Morrissey and Erin Nielsen) and told them about the experience.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ We feel fortunate, but don't want to be spoiled and keep the happy huddle to ourselves - we want to share!!!ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ While SBE is about our children being able to connect - and they do! - we'd like to help in whatever way we can to encourage other parents to forge these bonds.
Having been to the first SBE and knowing no one and having these friendships for the past 4 years, I know the difference in the experience that can be enjoyed when you're standing side by side with another person who's been there; that is rubbing your back while you cry because they know you'll be doing the same for them at some point during the trip.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ Someone who will watch your child while you excuse yourself to bawl privately, as there are still some tears our children do not need to see.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ Someone who will hug you and look into your eyes and love you with understanding because they've been there - those moments are, for me - the best times of Snowball Express.
As for other suggestions...
1.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ It'd be great if there could be a bit more stringency on where people smoke.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ I am allergic to it and would be glad to know that people are not smoking next to entrances/exits that everyone needs to go through.
2.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ One of our friend's daughters has Celiac's disease; it'd be great to have 1 volunteer assigned to food allergies or needs or at least have them available for contact via phone to answer emergency questions.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ My friend, Erin managed and pre-planned for her cutey, but I can't imagine the stress for a parent or group of more than 1 child with those needs.
3.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ It was great to meet some of the people working in the Command Center.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ Just like there was a video of the Teen Chill Zone and the Adult Lounge, would it be possible to zoom through the Command Center while they're setting it up and working behind the scenes and show that. Sometimes, unfortunately - it seems that many folks come to SBE forgetting that this event is not required for our children and become critical or ungrateful.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ Reminders like this one (that people are losing sleep to make this work) may be helpful - though it also sounds like more work.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ It's just a suggestion.
4.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ I LOVED having a day where we could rouse slowly in the morning and have breakfast at any time at the hotel!!!ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ That was delightful. Thank you!
5.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ The evening show, the final night was a little long.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ An hour to an hour and a half would be most beneficial as many of us wanted to spend time together saying our goodbyes for the year without being rude to the actors/performers.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ Additionally, those 4:00 a.m. departures are painful.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ This was the first year we left in the middle of the day and it was a nice change.
6.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ We didn't check our kids (5 - 11 years) into the children's play room because it seemed chaotic and hectic.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ With some parents behaving somewhat erratically, I didn't want to leave my son to fend for himself.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ I am wondering if there is another way to make this work?ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ Perhaps we sign up for a time frame to be able to drop off our kids off, when it's at capacity, it's at capacity.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ I haven't done a ton of thinking for this one, but I'd like to be able to enjoy some down time knowing that our little ones are going to feel secure.
7.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ I'd love to be able to purchase a "Lt. Dan Band" t-shirt.
Thank you for asking for our thoughts & recommendations.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year
One Mom’s Story About Last Year’s Event
I wanted to let you know that my daughters, Lauren and Emily, are just as excited about this upcoming Snowball as their first.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ We have attended every Snowball since the very beginning and the excitement is just as high as that first journey on American Airlines.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ We look forward to see our old friends and meeting the newest friends to Snowball...my heart goes out to the new ones.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ If there is anything I can help you with on my end to make things easier please let me know.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ I am only a phone call away and willing to help with whatever is needed.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for our Snowball Express trip!!! Words alone could never be enough to say thank you for what the trip meant to us. We are still talking about the wonderful time we had. I had never\met any other fallen heroes families, and it was so wonderful to me to meet others that know how you feel!!! It was so nice to see the kids smile and interact with the other children!! God bless you and your family and all the wonderful volunteers who made this happen. We will forever be grateful.
I'd like to take this time to thank EVERYONE who made an impact on my son DJ. That was the first time he was able to interact with children just like him. Words will never even come close to saying how truly thankful we are for being able to meet and fellowship with so many wonderful people who have been through the storm, and with prayer and organizations like Snowball, we are able to see a bit of light at the end of an endless dark tunnel. God bless you all
To dear people that gave me and my 3 kids the best vacation since the loss of my husband, father of 5 and grandfather of 3.The kids really loved Oakley the best. Disney was just an added favor. This was our 1st plane trip. We had so many stories and free stuff to share with family and friends. We would love to thank everyone at Snowball Express, TAPS, American Airlines, all the airports, Oakley and Virginia Link for everything. We are already planning next year’s trip.
Thank you so much for everything!! From the beginning to the end, it was wonderful. It was our first flight and the fear we had at the beginning was replaced with fun. There are a lot of phone calls, emails and visits when a love one dies. As time presses on the calls and visits are few and eventually they stop. Snowball Express and all of the wonderful volunteers made us feel like someone still cares about the children. We met quite a few people that we are going to keep in contact with and I can't say thank you enough for the new memories. I was almost in tears when the plane landed. There was a box waiting for the children when we got home and I had to fight back the tears again. Disneyland was great but the dinner and Oakley meant a lot, to be in the presence of so many people who have been through the same thing. Awesome. May God bless each and every one of you. Thank you again and again.