Dear Snowball Express families,
I can’t believe that its already been nearly a month since we were all in Dallas – Fort Worth for the 2012 Snowball Express. The good news is there are approximately only 345 days until the next one, I can’t wait! There is truth in the saying that time flies when you are having fun.
This was my second time attending Snowball, and this time I was able to truly enjoy the whole experience from start to finish. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy myself the first time; quite the opposite! It’s that your first time at a Snowball event is so overwhelmingly powerful and fast-paced that you don’t know what to say or where to look. I’m sure you all felt that your first time too!
Many people around the country ask me about Snowball Express and I usually tell them the 30-second summary of what Snowball consists of — thousands of kids and families who come together for an all-expenses paid trip to Dallas thanks to all the great corporate partners that make this event possible, such as American Airlines who donate their planes to fly the families to Dallas, or Sheraton that host all of the families for free for four days, or Greyhound buses and Dallas County Schools for transporting the families from event to event. The list of sponsors goes on and on and the amount of support by volunteers and the community is just incredible.
But last weekend it hit me what the Snowball Express truly is. Forget about all of the concerts, parades, or even Six Flags. The magic of Snowball Express is what happens in the hotel corridors and the lounges. It’s the connections and new friendships that are made. It’s the chance to reconnect with old friends that you only get to see once a year. These friendships run so deep by sharing a common understanding of what it means to serve and what it means to sacrifice. What happens there transpires into a 365-day event of reaching out to neighbour Snowball families in need, of connecting new families, creating new unbreakable bonds to create support systems for those families who have gone above and beyond the call of duty and who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. That’s what Snowball is truly about. All of the cool stuff that we get to do is just a bonus!
When I first came to America over 4 years ago to follow my dreams of racing in the Indy 500, I guess I never truly realized how lucky I was to follow my dreams. I never really understood the value of freedom until I went on a goodwill tour two years ago to meet with UK and US troops across bases in the Middle-East. There I saw the sacrifices that these brave men and women were making for you and me. I knew when I got home that I had to do something to give back. I didn’t know what or how I was going to do that, but I knew I had to do something. Fortunately, a good friend of mine introduced me to Buck Kern. Buck, as you know, is the Executive Director of Snowball Express, and it took him all of ten seconds to sell me on the idea of becoming involved with his organization.
One thing that wasn’t lost on me when I returned from Iraq was that behind every man or woman serving on the front line, there is a family behind them serving at home, holding up the fort. One of the ways I am able to give back to some of these families is to host them at each of the race tracks where I race, to make them honorary team members for the weekend, and give them the full VIP experience. I wanted them to share the experience of the dream job that I am fortunate to be doing because of the sacrifice that they have made, and to let them know that their service as well as their fallen hero is appreciated and will not be forgotten.
I feel so thankful that I continue to be a part of Snowball Express, both at the track and at the annual event. This year was especially wonderful because I got to reconnect with all of my own friends, and even make new ones! Seeing your glowing smiles when I got to the airport, boarded the plane, and ate breakfast was such a reward. I’m extremely lucky to be friends with the best people in the world, my Snowball Express family.