Dan Bewley, News On 6
TULSA, Oklahoma -- A Snowball Express rolled through Tulsa Thursday. The special program helps children of military men and women who have died while on active duty since September 11, 2001.
The Snowball Express has been flying since 2006. Its goal is simple; to give military children who lost a parent a few days of fun and friendship.
Six families gathered Thursday morning at Tulsa International Airport.
"I really think it's nice of them, whoever is doing this," said ten-year-old Koby Mackey.
The families share a special and tragic bond. Each one of the children are victims of war, they've lost a parent who died on active duty while serving Old Glory.
Thirteen-year-old Ryan Mackey's father died in 2008.
"It's been hard and easy," Mackey said. "The first year it was very, very hard."
Cole Diesing's father was killed by a roadside bomb five years ago.
"I lost my father and if he could be here it'd be a pleasure for him to know how great this place is," eight-year-old Diesing said.
JR and Thomas Graham's father was killed by a suicide bomber.
"He was a really nice guy," Thomas Graham, 11, said. "He'd help me with baseball and all."
"He was a real good guy," JR, 15, said. "He helped me play soccer a lot."
The children are here to board the Snowball Express. American Airlines will fly 1300 families to Dallas for a weekend getaway. They'll go to Six Flags and attend special concerts, all in hopes that the sadness of losing a parent will fade away for a few days and the kids will have something to smile about.
"It really means a lot to me knowing that somebody cares," Ryan Mackey said.
"I think it's real great that people have volunteered their time for us," JR Graham said.
Some of the families have gone on the trip before. They say watching their children laugh and giggle and just be kids is an amazing experience. They also say meeting other families who are dealing with the same loss helps them get a better grip on the tragic turn their lives have taken.
"It's nice to have somebody to bounce some ideas off of or, 'My kid's going through this. Have you dealt with it yet?' Misti Williamson said.
After the pomp, pictures, and an early Christmas present, the kids are ready to take flight, ready to have a good time. They say events like this go a long way to help them handle the loss of a parent.
"It does a little bit but it doesn't change the fact that he's gone though," JR Graham said.
The families don't have to pay anything for the trip. Snowball Express is a non-profit organization.