Disney and Gary Sinise Foundation Host Walk of Gratitude at Magic Kingdom to Honor Fallen Heroes

Shannen Ace

Disney and Gary Sinise Foundation Host Walk of Gratitude at Magic Kingdom to Honor Fallen Heroes

This week, Walt Disney World teamed up with the Gary Sinise Foundation for the annual “Snowball Express” five-day retreat, welcoming more than 700 families of fallen military heroes this past week. Family members participated in the “Walk of Gratitude” through Magic Kingdom.

Walk of Gratitude with Gary Sinise Foundation at Walt Disney World

Walk of Freedom with Gary Sinise Foundation

1,100 Disney VoluntEARS arrived at Magic Kingdom before 5 a.m. to honor the military families.

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Hundreds of family members walked from Town Square to Cinderella Castle as hundreds more Cast Members cheered them on.

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Before arriving at Magic Kingdom, each family wrote personal messages to their fallen hero on scrolls that were then placed in a magic cauldron on the Cinderella Castle stage. During the procession, children rang bells to send their messages up to the parent(s) they lost. 

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Mickey Mouse and Gary Sinise Foundation leadership greeted the families at the castle.

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The scrolls in the magic cauldron were “sent skyward to heaven with the help of a little Disney magic.”

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Photo courtesy of Gary Sinise Foundation

“While our hearts are heavy at the circumstances that brought these families together, I am grateful we can wrap our arms around them, that we can honor them while remembering their loved ones who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom,” said actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise. “As we approach the holiday season, I am so glad that we are able to bring these deserving families together to create new and wonderful memories at the most magical place on earth, Walt Disney World.”

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This year’s ceremony held special meaning for Dan Barton, senior manager of Disney financial systems and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. 

“Support for military families is important for us here at Disney,” said Barton. “It is an honor to volunteer and recognize our fallen brothers and sisters who’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice. It is very special to be able to help bring a little magic to a child who has gone through incredible pain and loss of a loved one. As a Marine veteran, losing a loved one to military-related service hits close to home for many of us who’ve served in our nation’s military.” 

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The Snowball Express event has expanded to include a second week from December 9 to 13 to honor more than 350 families.

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