Sisters raise funds for program helping kids of fallen troops - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Sisters raise funds for program helping kids of fallen troops


Snowball Express is a trip for the children of fallen military members meant to help them through the healing process. But what happens when there's just not enough money to go around? Two Middle Tennessee sisters are taking charge after finding out the program that helped them is now in need.

Even though it's Spring Break for the Ponder sisters, they're hard at work with their mom planning a benefit 5K run to help other children just like them.

"Sometimes at school I have to almost put on a mask because a lot of people don't understand what losing a parent feels like," said race organizer Samantha Ponder.

Their father, Master Sgt. James "Tre" Ponder, was killed in Afghanistan in 2005.

The book and movie Lone Survivor was based on his final mission.

The girls had a tough time coping.

"My sister and I really struggled with that. We went to counseling over a year," Samantha said.

But it has been the weekend getaways called Snowball that has helped them most.

"We went to Snowball for the first time and just going to it once did more for us than one of counseling did," she said.

This year may be different. More than 2,000 children of the fallen have attended the event in the past, but a lack of funds has forced some kids to a waiting list.

Since Samantha runs cross country and track, she decided to hold the Snowball Express 5K Run in Franklin, hoping to send at least 20 children to Snowball.

Her younger sister paid the $100 application fee.

"Over the course of Snowball we've met really good life-long friends," Samantha said.

The race will begin and end in downtown Franklin on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. The girls chose that day since the race will benefit children of the fallen, like a 5-year-old girl who opened up for the first time at Snowball.

"She goes, 'My daddy died,' and I said, 'My dad died, too.' And that's normal at Snowball," Samantha said.

The Ponder sisters are in the process of trying to raise $8,000 to $10,000 for pre-race expenses. The registration fee is only $25.

If you would like to donate, take part in the race or become a sponsor, you can visit their website:

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