GRINNELL, Iowa-- A Grinnell family is getting ready to hop on a flight to Texas. The Snowball Express will fly children and spouses of fallen soldiers to Fort Worth for the weekend free of charge.
The getaway gives the military families a chance to make new memories while remembering the loved ones they lost.
“The holidays suck,” said mother of five Kaanan Mackey.
Her husband, SSG Matt Mackey, served with the Iowa National Guard. In 2010, just months after returning home from Iraq, he died in a car accident coming home from a drill weekend.
“My kids were lost,” said Mackey.
That was until she found the Snowball Express. The organization plans events for military families who lost a parent while on active duty. The Mackey’s flew to Texas for the first time last year.
“There's a bond because there's just the understanding of losing someone,” said 15-year-old daughter Alexis.
“To be able to do this right before Christmas and ease a little bit of that pain for them and know that there' so many people, it's so overwhelming to see the support these kids get from complete strangers,” said Mackey.
While they expect some tears again this year, the Snowball Express volunteers make sure to plan plenty of fun activities for the kids.
“This is the first time that I've seen all of my kids smile, true smiles,” said Mackey.
"Going there is a present," said Alexis.
A sendoff is planned for the three Iowa families leaving from the Des Moines airport tomorrow morning. They will be joined by about 18-hundred children and spouses in Texas.