Texas Rangers Baseball Club and Hawaiian Falls host Gary Sinise Foundation’s Snowball Express program
Freedom can exact a terrible toll. Not just on the warriors who sacrifice their life fighting to protect our freedoms, but also in the vacuum their absence creates for the families of the fallen.
The Texas Rangers Baseball Club recently teamed up with Hawaiian Falls Waterparks and the Gary Sinise Foundation’s Snowball Express program to provide a day of camaraderie and fun for the families of fallen warriors at the Hawaiian Falls Mansfield waterpark.
“We want to provide an escape for the families of our fallen heroes,” said Hawaiian Falls Mansfield Park Director Jason Martin, a former U.S. Army medic who served in Iraq. “I’ve seen first hand the toll combat takes on service members and their families. We’re happy to give the families a carefree day playing together, bonding with other Snowball families and creating happy memories.”
Since 2006 Snowball Express has been providing hope and help for children of military fallen heroes who’ve died while on active duty since 9/11. In December, the Gary Sinise Foundation brings children together from all over the world for a five-day experience full of healing, bonding and fun activities to foster friendships. Throughout the year, the Gary Sinise Foundation provides comprehensive support programs for fallen families that are focused on transition and connections to community resources, healing and wellness, peer engagement, education and personal/professional development programs.
Stephanie Lembo of Frisco was at the waterpark with her children: Anthony, 12, Lucas, 10, and Madison, 5. “Snowball Express is my family,” she said. “They’ve taken my kids under their wing and made them feel special.” Stephanie’s husband, Petty Officer First Class Anthony Lembo, was a boatman for the Navy SEALs. “Anthony was a sweet, loving guy who was always helping the other guys on his team. He died November 8, 2010.”
Texas Rangers third base coach Tony Beasley and pitcher Matt Moore signed autographs and took photos with the kids. When a young baseball player asked Matt Moore if he had any advice for him, Moore answered, “Make good grades and throw strike one. It’s hard to throw strike one if you’re not on the field.”
“My husband, First Sergeant Jonathan Compton, was a Marine’s Marine,” said Sara Compton of Kennedale, who was at the park with her daughters Lexie, 11, and Bailey, 9. “Jonathan joined the Marines when he was 17. And he was proud to be a Marine. In his 15 years of service he was deployed nine times and did four combat tours in Iraq. He was a strong man and a brave warrior, but he took his own life November 23, 2014.”
While a few tears were shed as families remembered their fallen hero, this was not a day of mourning. This day was filled with kids laughing as they splashed each other in the wavepool. This day, they floated carefree down the Lazy River and squealed as they raced down the slides. If you didn’t know them, it would have been impossible to pick the Snowflakes, as Snowball Express refers to the kids, out from any of the kids enjoying a hot summer day at the waterpark. And that’s a positive step for families who’ve endured more than their share of sorrow.
The Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of children in need within our community, and provides funding for youth in crisis, youth health initiatives, youth baseball programs, and youth education. More information is available at http://www.texasrangers.com.
More information about the Gary Sinise Foundation is available at www.GarySiniseFoundation.org.
Hawaiian Falls operates waterparks in Garland, The Colony, Mansfield, Roanoke and Waco. For information about tickets, hours of operation, special events, and park information, visit hfalls.com.