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Gary Sinise sends 1,700+ Gold Star family members to Disney World

Gary Sinise explains why he started the Gary Sinise Foundation during a meeting with military and local media at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., April 29, 2016. (Master Sgt. Jeff Walston/U.S. Air Force)
December 09, 2019

More than 1,700 family members of fallen U.S. military members were honored this week with a five-day Disney World getaway in Orlando, Fla.

The Disney World trip, put on by the Gary Sinise Foundation, is part of the annual “Snowball Express” event put on by the foundation every December, according to Spectrum News 13. The event offers remembrance of the Gold Star families whose loved ones in the military died in service to their country.

The foundation reportedly partnered with American Airlines to get all the family members to Orlando for the getaway.

“Each December, we host a five-day experience for 1,750+ children of the fallen and their surviving parent or guardian,” the foundation’s website says. “As a therapeutic retreat with a blend of fun and inspiring programs, these families can lean on their peers for support.”

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Sinise, who played Lieutenant Dan in the 1994 film Forrest Gump, has been a long-standing supporter of the U.S. veteran community, through his foundation. Last year, 1,722 children boarded various flights to Orlando, Florida for the annual Disney trip.

Snowball Express started over 10 years ago after a deployed soldier sent his wife a letter that she was only to open if he was killed. In the letter, he said that his one wish was that she would take their children to Disney World.

Because of that single letter, Gary Sinise honors that soldier’s wish each year, for thousands of children.

Snowball Express covers all expenses for the children and their surviving parent or guardian.

“It’s something I feel is incredibly important for our nation, letting the children know that we do not forget their sacrifices and we honor them. And it’s such a great feeling to see them healing, smiling, and having fun,” Sinise said of last year’s trip.

The “Snowball Express” event is part of the Gary Sinise Foundation’s efforts to Relief and Resiliency focus, which is geared towards providing support for military service members, first responders and veterans in need.

The Gary Sinise Foundation has taken on a number of veteran causes over the years. Those programs have included helping wounded veterans by building adaptive homes to meet their mobility needs. The foundation has also focused on promoting veterans through arts, entertainment and educational opportunities.

Sinise also plays music with his Lt. Dan Band, named after his Forrest Gump character. The rock band performs in the Invincible Spirit Festival tour, playing for wounded veterans and their families.