NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Thursday nearly 1,800 families of fallen military heroes boarded the ninth annual Snowball Express for an all-expense paid vacation to Dallas.
Anastasia Zapfe and her family have paid our country the ultimate sacrifice
“[My dad] was killed in action June 19, 2007. I miss him terribly,” said Zapfe. “I love him to death though. He was my everything. He was our family’s everything.”
Five years ago the family took their first trip on the Snowball Express and never looked back.
All of the families on the trip are just like the Zapfe’s and have lost a loved one while they were serving in the military.
The holidays can be the hardest time of the year for them.
This weekend though is all about putting big smiles on their faces.
They’re on their way to Dallas for a free weekend getaway, filled with red carpet events, private concerts and museum tours.
To get them there, an American Airlines flight has been transformed into a winter wonderland.
American Airline General Manager Renee Gilliam-White says, “When you look into a child’s eyes and you see the wonderment, you really realize what this is all about. It just all about making sure they have a great holiday season.”
A lot of these kids have been coming back for years.
Samantha Ponder has pledged to make sure every child of a fallen military hero that wants to be on the plane is.
“Last year I remember there was a money issue because some kids didn’t get to attend,” Ponder said. “That hit me pretty hard because snowball has been such a big part of my life. I love running and so I was like how can I combine these two things that I love so I was like let’s do a 5k”
She raised enough money to send about 40 kids on this trip that wouldn’t have gotten to go otherwise.
“It’s amazing that someone else thinks of us and our loved ones and wants to remember them and cherish them just as much as we want to,” says Zapfe.
That flight is just one of 72 Snowball Expresses across the country this weekend.
The Nashville area families will join 1,800 others for a weekend of fun.
For more information on the Snowball Express, visit their web site.