A Franklin High School student is on a mission to bring a special experience to children of fallen military members.
Sixteen-year-old Samantha Ponder unfortunately knows the pain associated with losing a loved one serving in the military.
“On June 28, 2005, my dad was killed in action,” Samantha said.
Her father, Master Sgt. Tre Ponder, died when his helicopter was shot down over Afghanistan.
Samantha told News 2 it has been difficult for her and her sister to grow up without their father.
“We struggled a lot for obvious reasons,” she said. “We did a year of counseling and in 2006 we found this organization called the Snowball Express.”
Snowball Express, a non-profit organization, brings thousands of children who have lost a military parent since 9/11 together.
American Airlines sponsors the program which gives grieving children a chance to build new friendships and heal the emotional wounds of losing a parent by spending time together in Dallas, Texas.
“Snowball for me is a way to be normal, in a sense because at school I almost have to put on a mask because a lot of kids don’t understand what losing a loved one is like, especially an adult parent figure,” Samantha explained.
While Samantha has enjoyed her time participating in Snowball Express activities, she also knows not every child grieving the loss of a parent can afford the cost to go.
“I’m a runner. I run cross country and track at Franklin High School, and so I said to my mom, ‘Mommy, why don’t we start a 5K [to help with the costs]?'”
On May 24, the city of Franklin will host the first Snowball 5K run to help cover costs for children who can’t afford the costs.
“Strollers are welcome. Families are welcome. There are ways to donate if you go to Snowball Express and it links you to registration,” Ponder said.
For more information on the upcoming 5K, click here.