By Lana Johnson
Rick Jenkins, Regional Vice President of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Orange County and Desert Regions, recently bestowed the Caring Heart Award 2010 to Trisha Marshall, a sales associate in Newport Beach at the agent meeting held April 12.
As a Snowball Express past board member, trustee, volunteer and national Snowflake coordinator, Marshall spreads her message of hope through the Snowball Express Foundation, a 501 c3, all volunteer charity that provides new memories for the children of fallen military warriors since 9/11.
“We started the Caring Heart Award to recognize those agents who give so much of themselves to the communities they serve,” said Jenkins. “They truly are stewards of their local neighborhoods as they improve the quality of lives for those who are so fortunate to call Orange County home. There are no unworthy causes. But Trisha and her undying commitment to Snowball Express tugs at your heartstrings. We wanted to acknowledge her as she gives so much of her time and talents to the Foundation,” he shared.
Snowball Express started from humble beginnings in Orange County in 2006 with nearly 900 family members from all over the country coming together for the first time. That number grew to more than 1,300 in 2008. It became the largest ever all-expense-paid gathering for families of fallen heroes since Sept. 11, 2001. All of the guests are immediate survivors – widows, widowers and children; their loved ones were killed in Iraq or Afghanistan since 9/11, with close to 5,000 casualties. They now reside in every state in addition to Puerto Rico, Germany and Australia. In 2009 and 2010, they held the four-day event in Dallas; it will again return there this Dec. 9-13 (as each geographic area hosts it for three consecutive years.) American Airlines has been their presenting sponsor over the past three years: they provided eight AA Charter jets with volunteer crews to travel to 44 cities all over the nation to bring the families to Snowball Express. Actor Gary Sinise is among the board members, and Michele Obama and Jill Biden have named Snowball Express No. 3 among their favorite military charities.
“When this was started, I was the Community Services Director with the Newport-Irvine Rotary, and had the privilege of choosing which charity to embrace. Snowball Express was co-sponsored by the Costa Mesa Rotary and Irvine Spectrum Rotary, and our chapter supported it with a donation of $5,000,” Marshall explained. “It was truly the service organizations that launched the effort, spearheaded by Rotary District 5252 and we kept the energy going, along with the Marriott and Westin Hotels, Oakley Corporation, Quiksilver, Panda Express and Outback Steakhouse, along with hundreds of other contributors and thousands of volunteers.” In addition to the Rotarians, the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Ladies Auxiliary and the Patriot Guard all rolled up their sleeves. “Our mission is to create new memories and a few days of joy for the children and spouses of those service people in the U.S. Armed Forces who made the ultimate sacrifice since 9/11. We bring families together to share their stories with one another and provide an opportunity to create new friendships and new memories. They have a very special bond,” Marshall said. “The survivors find out about us from DOD (Department of Defense) TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Programs) Gold Star Wives, and from widows and through word of mouth, and they can register on the website at www.snowballexpress.org,” Marshall shared.
“One of our Snowball Express moms in Tampa asked me after her third year attending Snowball with her two sons, Owen and Oliver, ‘How can I give back?’ I suggested she write a letter that we would put on our website to reach out to new families that experienced a recent loss,” Marshall said. “She explained why she came in 2006 only nine months after her husband, Christopher was killed in Iraq, what she and her children experienced and how it has affected them since their first visit. She related how the experience completely changed their lives. As a direct result of this letter which was place on our Snowball Express website, our attendance in 2009 for new moms went up 30%.”
In addition, there are Snowflake mini events held throughout the year all across the country. You can view photos of some of these at www.smilesacrossthemiles.org, and on the website under Snowflakes. Check out the Aug. 15, 2010 Snowflake Picnic and the Nov. 19, 2010 Snowflake event at Sony Studios. The upcoming 3rd Annual End of the Summer Picnic will be held at William Mason Regional Park in Irvine, sponsored by American Airlines, OC Airport Sheriff’s Dept. and Oakley.
To find out more information about Snowball Express, contact Patricia “Trisha” Marshall at 949.233.9060, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com. She works out of the Coldwell Banker Previews International office, located at 2121 E. Coast Highway, Ste. 180, Corona del Mar.