GSM charities

Interior Communications Electrician 2nd Class Erica Tapia, from the Second Class Petty Officer Association of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), cheers for Gold Star families returning from Dallas at Norfolk International Airport during this year’s Snowball Express event in this file photo. The Snowball Express sends families of service members who lost their lives in the line of duty on an all-expense paid trip every holiday season. This year the Snowball Express sent 1,500 families to Dallas for exclusive events including a concert by Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band.

A number of charitable organizations have emerged over the past 20 years in support of children of fallen U.S. soldiers serving the Middle East.

They work in harmony with local communities to fill in for a lost parent, mentor and the giant gap in lost financial security. One in particular has done very hard, good and valuable work. Consider lending a hand this holiday season.

The Snowball Express

Gary Sinise might be best known for his Oscar-nominated role as Lt. Dan in 1994’s “Forrest Gump,” but he’s made an impact through the Gary Sinise Foundation’s Snowball Express. Snowball Express is a community-based initiative defined by its annual four-day event uniting 2,000 Gold Star families. The organization’s website describes it as “a therapeutic retreat with a blend of fun and inspiring programs.” Activities include sports competitions, dances and amusement park rides, all designed to provide new and happier moments for children of fallen service members.

The foundation

Snowball Express is a branch of the Gary Sinise Foundation. Sinise has deep family history in the armed forces. His family includes veterans who served in every major conflict since World War I, and he credits talking to his wife’s siblings about their service in Vietnam as the inspiration for starting his foundation. “They came back to a nation that turned its back on them,” Sinise told the Hollywood Reporter.

He began volunteering with disabled veterans after portraying Lt. Dan but said 9/11 set his plans to spend more time volunteering in motion.

How to lend support

There are a number of ways to give financial support through www.garysinisefoundation.org, including online and mail-in donations as well as a gift through your will. A donation is a good Christmas gift as well. Giving in the name of a friend or relative is trending.

Event fundraising is a good way to get the community involved and fraternize and meet people. A Snowball Express Benefit 5K, for example.

There are also volunteer opportunities for the actual event.

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