Military Families Ready to Fly the Snowball Express

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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.


  • Kaanan

    There are 3 families going from Des Moines and I believe 1 more going with us from Cedar Rapids. The families have to sign up to go, and it’s not something that is common knowledge for those of us here in Iowa that have lost someone. It took 2 years after my husband died before I heard about this trip. So my daughter and I were happy to try and help share this with families here in Iowa. They have requirements that some of the families do not fall into, could also be a reason for some. Their parent has to be determined in the line of duty. Others children are still too young or old. The ages are 5-18 for our kids to be able to go.

      • Kaanan

        Thank you, my children are thrilled to go. I’m happy to try and get the word out to more families here to be able to go and be part of the experience!

    • Larry Shatto

      Just watched the interview and wanted to say it was an honor and pleasure to meet you and the kids. Thanks for helping get the word out “Good job, see you next year”.

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