Actor Gary Sinise, best known for his role as Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump, took 1,750 family members of fallen soldiers on a five-day trip to Disney World.
According to a local news outlet, the trip is part of the Gary Sinise Foundation’s Snowball Express. The program started in 2006 when Sinise fulfilled a fallen soldier’s wish to take his kids to Disney World.
“The important ingredient is that these kids meet each other and they know they’re not alone,” Sinise said. “They make friendships that last a lifetime.”
Families from over 87 cities throughout the world came to the “most magical place on Earth” with a surviving parent or guardian. This year marks the 14th anniversary of the Snowball Express. Partnering with corporate sponsors, such as American Airlines, the Foundation sees this trip as an important part of the family’s healing process.
“I’ve gotten to know a lot of these families,” Sinise said. “I love them and I want to just do something to help them through.”
Inspired by his role as a Vietnam veteran in Forrest Gump, the actor has dedicated much of his time and charity to caring for veterans and their families. He’s partnered with the Disabled American Veterans organization, participated in a few USO tours, and created the Lt. Dan Band, which travels around the world to entertain US troops abroad.
Earlier this year, Faithwire reported that the 64-year-old actor received an emotional video filled with celebrities and recipients from his foundation thanking him for all of his work to support soldiers and first responders.
“Thank you for all the things you have done for our men and women who have served our nation,” retired four-star Army Gen. Colin Powell said in the video. “Not only what you’ve done for them but for their children, what you’ve done for their families, what you’ve done to help them rebuild their lives.”
Other celebrities in the video included Tim Allen, Jay Leno, Patricia Heaton and Robert DeNiro. Actor Tom Hanks, who played alongside Sinise in Forrest Gump, even closed out the video with an enthusiastic: “Thanks, Lt. Dan!”
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Frederick M. Brown/Stringer
Mikaela Mathews is a freelance writer and editor based in Dallas, TX. She was the editor of a local magazine and a contributing writer for the Galveston Daily News and Spirit Magazine. She blogs at mikaelamathews.com.