DAYTON, Ohio (WRGT/WKEF)- Local Gold Star children spent their first night at Disney World thanks to the Snowball Express. Tanner, Ian and Kaydence Bryan arrived at the Dayton Airport bright and early to go on a special holiday trip.
The Snowball Express is an annual event that provides a free holiday trip to kids that lost a parent serving in the military. The Bryan's father, Cody Bryan died seven years ago from injuries he sustained on his second tour duty in Iraq.
Now, the Gary Sinese Foundation and American Airlines are hoping to spread some holiday cheer during a time of year that would be hard when missing a loved one.
"It's meant to be a healing experience during the holiday season for Gold Star children." said American Airline Agent Julie Cochran.
Normally, children on the Snowball Express spend five days in Dallas but this year the local Springboro family got the chance visit the most magical place on earth.
"Disney world, I've never been there," said Ian Bryan.
At the airport the siblings were greeted by Disney characters- Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy and Daisy Duck. The Troy High School drum corps also gave the family a warm welcome as they checked in.
"We put on a big party here at the airport for them to send them off and it's great every year," said Cochran.
In addition to the all expense paid five day trip to Disney World, the kids were given a check worth $500 from actor Gary Sinise and American Airlines. American Airlines has flown families on the special trip since September 11, 2011.
Thirteen charter planes took families from 87 cities throughout the world for the Snowball Express.
"I just feel honored by it, I really do, they're the ones who made the sacrifice," said Cochran.
Organizers of Snowball Express want the word to get out about the program. They want other children with the same heartache of losing a military parent to go on the free and unforgettable trip.
For more information about the Snowball Express visit this website.