Judson program to support families of veterans

The mission of Snowball Express is to provide hope and new happy memories to the children of military fallen heroes who have died while on active duty since 9/11. The all-volunteer Snowball Express creates a four-day event to connect the children and surviving spouses with others going through the same experience. Serving the children who will never be reunited with their mom or dad, Snowball Express remembers those fallen heroes who will not be returning home to their families and honors the ultimate sacrifice made by their children and surviving spouses.

In partnership with American Airlines, it flies family members from around the country — and from around the world — to where the event is hosted in Dallas.

Mentemeyer, a board member for the non-profit, will be talking to business and community leaders about Snowball Express and how Longview can help honor the families of those who gave their lives for American freedom.

Since retiring from the United States Air Force, Mentemeyer has worked with Snowball Express for five years, serving as a board member the past four. He believes it is an organization that speaks to the heart.

“The kids taught us the real reason (for Snowball Express)," he said. "The healing they get socializing with each other… It’s the only time they don’t have to explain themselves and their situation.”

Organized by Judson Middle School teacher and student council advisor Leah Rosson, she said her students' goals are threefold.

"Number one, we want to raise awareness about this program, in the hopes of having a community-wide event to honor our local Gold Star families, which then leads to raising funds to support (Snowball Express)," she said. "We feel like if we do the first thing well enough, the second and third will fall into place."

Judson's student council is raising funds now, and a bake sale at the campus will be ongoing on Wednesdays and Fridays for the next few weeks. Rosson said the student council has set a goal to sponsor two families, at a cost of $500 per family.

"It's about kids helping kids," she said, and is inviting local business leaders to attend the Feb. 18 event. "We're hoping to help get the word out about Snowball Express, and what it means to the families who've lost someone defending the freedoms we all enjoy."

Judson eighth grader Mallory Parker, vice president of the student council, said she is moved by the impact this program has on the lives of those who have gone through so much.

"It is rewarding to see the smiles on children's faces, especially when you know what they have to go through losing a parent," she said. "We still have our parents, and theirs died fighting for our freedoms."

Rosson said the Judson student council will also be giving multiple presentations to the Texas Association of Student Councils about this initiative.

"They will be presenting three times in total," she said. "April at the High School Leadership Conference in Arlington, then in September at the TASC Advisors workshop, and in November at the Middle Level Leader Workshops."

By the time they are done, Rosson said there is the possibility her students will have spoken to more than 10,000 people about Snowball Express.

"There are also some discussions about the potential of this becoming a state project for all of TASC," she added.

But while Rosson is excited for the opportunities this program affords her students to grow as young leaders, the main priority for the entire student council is to serve others.

"The Snowball Express gives so much to these kids: our nation's kids. It provides an outlet for them to open up and talk about the loss of their parent and what they are going through," she said. "One boy I talked to (during last year's event) did not remember his dad who'd died in combat, so he feels left out when his mom and older brother talk about him. But he could talk about that with other kids in the program, and they could relate. The organization also provide counseling services."

For more information about how you can help Judson Middle School's student council support Snowball Express, contact sponsor Leah Rosson at (903) 446-2610.

Judson Middle School student council sponsor Leah Rosson with Zarea Collins (Secretary), Betsy Rodriguez (President), Alanee Gonzales (Treasurer) Anna Quintero (Reporter) and Mallory Parker (Vice President).
http://snowballexpress.org/ Source: Snowball Express
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