Snowball Express delivers holiday spirit to military families

DALLAS --More than a thousand kids were in Dallas, Texas this month for four days of non-stop joy. There was no limit to the games, the rides, and the fun.

And it was all free.

If you're wondering why these kids, and their parents, were treated like such heroes -- they earned it. The hard way.

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Chase Sullivan enjoys his time at the Snowball Express CBS News

Every child here lost a parent in the military. Every parent lost a spouse.

Chase Sullivan is seven, and his brother Jake is five. Their mother Bree can't remember the last time they were this happy.

"They get to be with other kids who get it, who understand what it's like to lose a parent."

Michelle Karnoski brought her 13-year-old daughter Sammie.

"It's heartbreaking to know that all these kids have lost a parent while on active duty military. It's hard," said Karnoski.

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Kids ride bumper cars at the 10th annual Snowball Express CBS News

It's the 10th anniversary of the Snowball Express, a non-profit charity named for an old Disney movie. Some families return every year, like Carol Baruch and her daughter Amelia.

"You don't have to justify tears," Baruch explained. Her husband john did two tours in Iraq.

"He had a larger than life personality. And when he came back from his second tour, that personality had changed."

Suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, he took his own life two days after Christmas in 2007.

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The Baruch family CBS News

"Around Christmastime, a classmate will complain about a present their dad gave them that they didn't like. And it's kind of frustrating, because I'd do anything to get a bad present from my dad," said Amelia.

Snowball Express is always held during the holiday season because for many here it's the most difficult time of the year.

Snowball Express brings Christmas cheer to families who need it most

"I can't imagine ever not having this in my life," Amelia said.

Chase and Jake Sullivan feel pretty much the same way.

"I just wish we could stay here for a year," Chase said. "I wish we could stay here forever," Jake followed.

Forever, in a place where everyone understands.

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.