As the 13th annual Snowball Express rolled into Walt Disney World on Dec. 8, the Exchange was there to greet Gold Star families, underscoring the organization’s mission of care and compassion for our Nation’s heroes.
The five-day event brings together 1,700 children and family members of fallen military heroes to promote healing, especially during the holidays. During the gathering, the Exchange reminds these special families that they are still part of the Exchange family and military community.
“We want to show these grieving families how much we care,” said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Luis Reyes, the Exchange enlisted advisor. “We want them to know that we will also stand alongside them when they walk back into their everyday lives.”
“The most important thing for us to do was to pay tribute to those we lost by raising the spirits of those left behind.”
-CMSgt Luis Reyes, Exchange senior enlisted advisor
Reyes; Sgt. 1st Class Winston Lazo, the Exchange non-commissioned officer in charge; Lajima Marshall, MacDill AFB Exchange store manager; and Sharon Sellers, MacDill Exchange sales area manager; represented the Exchange at Snowball Express, marking the eighth straight year the Exchange has participated. The team handed out Exchange swag, gift cards and coupons to the children and families.
“It was humbling when you think about all that these kids and spouses have been through,” said Lazo, who was attending the event for the first time. “We wanted to help them have fun, make positive memories and enjoy exciting entertainment.”
For Marshall, helping to coordinate the Exchange’s presence at the event was an honor.
“Serving these children and parents was not a sacrifice,” Marshall said. “It was a pleasure that we took part in with a heart of compassion.”
Reyes represents the Exchange as he regularly travels to military installations. During this week, his goal was different.
“The most important thing for us to do was to pay tribute to those we lost by raising the spirits of those left behind,” Reyes said.