The Gary Sinise Foundation connected 750 families – including 1,800 children – of fallen United States troops with celebrities on Monday during its second virtual Snowball Express event.
While the pre-pandemic Snowball Express events flew military families to Disney World, this year’s virtual event gave Gold Star Families videos of appreciation from a number of celebrities, including Tim Allen, Tom Hanks, Steve Buscemi, Matthew McConaughey, Kristen Bell, Simone Biles, Caeleb Dressel, Jordan Chiles, Brett Goldstein, Joe Mantegna, Norman Reedus, Tom Kenny, Zachary Levi, Stephen Boss, Allison Holker Boss, Kelli Erdmann, Preston Arsement, Laurie Metcalf, Iain Armitage, Zoe Perry, Eddie Cahill, Dean Cain, Gary LeVox and Mike Rowe, according to Variety.
Many of the famous contributors gave their messages as their characters from films like “Toy Story” and “Ted Lasso.”
“Gary Sinise Foundation Snowball Express serves the children and surviving spouse of fallen military heroes. We are committed to programming and support that holds space to honor their fallen heroes while also helping create new memories as they move forward,” the foundation’s website stated.
Attendees were also treated with performances by Penn & Teller and TikTok dancers Cost n’ Mayor, an animal sanctuary show from Bindi and Robert Irwin, yo-yo lessons from Gentry Stein, a slime class with Ricky Waite, Disney animation and cooking lessons, a talk with U.S. Space Force major Travis Tubbs and a Q&A with Gary Sinise.
The virtual experience also included a surprise performance from Broadway and movie star Idina Menzel, who sang “Show Yourself” from “Frozen 2.”
Founded in 2011 by the actor famous for his portrayal of Lt. Dan in “Forrest Gump,” The Gary Sinise Foundation seeks to honor U.S. military veterans and their families.
“No matter where these families are in the grieving process, we hope to inspire them to believe that anything is possible,” Sinise’s website continued. “By providing fun experiences and beneficial resources in an emotionally safe and inclusive environment, we’re creating a community to learn, grow, and make lasting memories with new friends.”
In addition to the Snowball Express event, the Gary Sinise Foundation hosts community events for families of the fallen throughout the year.
“From baseball games to arts & educational opportunities, to overnight experiences these families can strengthen their community close to where they live. These events are essential for children and surviving spouses to develop bonds with the only people who can truly understand their loss: each other,” the website stated.
Sinise also encouraged the public to send a message to Gold Star Families on social media this holiday season using the hashtag: #GSFSnowballExpress