One-thousand children of fallen military members got to experience the trip of a lifetime last week thanks to Actor Gary Sinise, famously known for playing Lt. Dan Taylor in the movie ‘Forrest Gump.’
Sinise and his nonprofit, the Gary Sinise Foundation, partnered with American Airlines to provide 1,000 Gold Star children and 700 of their family members with a four-day, all-expenses-paid trip to the Disney World theme park in Orlando, Florida as a way to celebrate the holiday season, reported American Military News.
“The important ingredient is that these kids meet each other and they know they’re not alone,” Sinise explained.
“They make friendships that last a lifetime. I’ve gotten to know a lot of these families. I love them and I want to just do something to help them through.”
The Gary Sinise Foundation spends $27 million each year on veteran-serving programs such as building custom smart-homes for disabled veterans, and taking Gold Star families to Disney World.
Apart from a long family history of service in the Korean War, Vietnam War, and WWII, Sinise’s starring in Forrest Gump in 1994 inspired him to begin making appearances at military conventions and USO tours, leading to the founding of the Gary Sinise foundation in 2011.
“The common thread between all of these kids and all of these family members is that they’ve lost someone,” Sinise said to PEOPLE.
“They’re grieving and we want to provide a healing opportunity for them by bringing them all together in the same place. For many of these kids, they’re going through this grief process just kind of by themselves, and they’re from different towns from around the country. When they come to our event, they are surrounded by children and family members who all understand what they’re going through,” he continued.
“They’re all going through the same thing. And we just try to give them a lot of love and joy, and provide a healing atmosphere for them right before Christmas time.”
Around the nation today, families of fallen service members are departing for Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL, as part of Gary Sinise Foundation Snowball Express. Ferried by @AmericanAir, the 5-day trip pays tribute to their sacrifices. #SBEGSF #SnowballExpress pic.twitter.com/l2kM8guytF— GarySiniseFoundation (@GarySiniseFound) December 7, 2019