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Snowball Express Gives Families Of Those Killed In War A Fun-Filled Weekend

Nearly 1,800 kids and spouses of those lost in combat are in town for the 8th annual Snowball Express. It’s a four-day, all-expenses paid weekend filled with activities, which gives families an opportunity to bond.

Jameson Wright spent Friday morning playing a dozen arcade games, laser tag and navigating the gravity rope walk at the Main Event Entertainment Center in Frisco. Like most 9-year-olds, he’s pretty jazzed about it.

“It’s awesome,” Wright said. “All the games, all the food, all the fun, all the prizes.”

He’s named after his dad, James, who died in September 2003 during an ambush outside Tikrit, Iraq. Jameson was born at Fort Hood three months later. He turns 10 on Monday, and says even though he never met his dad, the loss is no less painful.

“It feels kind of sad and I miss him very much,” he said.

Jameson has met a lot kids like him who’ve lost their mom or dad. During this four day, all-expenses paid trip, the children and their family are treated like royalty. A red carpet was laid out for them at Main Event after they arrived and groups cheered them at the airport.

Jameson’s mom, Alina Wright, says they look forward to the event every year, especially since it falls so close to her son’s birthday. Other activities include a talent show and a visit to Look Cinema to watch the movie Frozen.

“They just love it,” Wright said. “And they have fun and they have a blast and they just forget about their troubles and get to be kid for a weekend. Get to be a kid.”

The annual event, which is now in its 8th year, also helps the grown-ups, too. At the hotel, there’s a lounge where adults can mingle while the kids are entertained elsewhere.  Wright has also developed a bond with some of the other women who’ve lost their husbands.

“I can help some of the newer widows out here to get past this hurdle and it’s a major hurdle and I can help them [and tell them], ‘you know what, it’s ok, keep your head up,’” Wright said. “I wanna say it gets easier, but it really doesn’t. But you get stronger.”

Losing her husband three months before her son was born was devastating. The night he was delivered, she couldn’t stop crying. But Jameson gave her a mission. She calls him her sunshine.

“He kept me busy,” Wright said. “He kept me focused on what I needed to do and kept me from going into a major slump and not getting out of it.”

Today, mom and son regularly visit the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery where James Wright is buried. There, Jameson talks to his dad.

“He’s like I wish my dad was here and I would give anything to have him back,” Wright said. “He’s at an age where he really wants his dad and it’s kind of hard to say to tell him all I can do is hug him.”

This weekend, there will be lots of hugging, some crying but also lots of fun.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.