Speeding joy to children aboard the Snowball Express

Snowball Express brings Christmas cheer to fa... 02:51

DALLAS -- Everywhere there are lights and stars and tinsel. But nothing shines brighter this time of year than the face of a child.

An organization called Snowball Express wouldn't have it any other way.

In Dallas this weekend more than 1,000 kids ran wild.

And no one told them to behave.

Everything is paid for by Snowball Express, a non-profit charity CBS News

They screamed. They sang.

And the food? A parent's nightmare.

Six-year-old Connor Bunting was with his mother, Nicki. What was his favorite part of Snowball Express?

"Eating the candy," he said.

"He said, 'This day just keeps getting better and better and better!'" she said. "And then he also said, 'This is my dreamland!'"

That is exactly what Snowball Express, named for an old Disney movie, is intended to be -- a weekend of sheer joy for kids who need it. Every child here has lost a parent to war. Every parent has lost a spouse.

What is it like to be in a place where so many people understand what each parent has gone through?

"You just feel at ease and you don't feel, you don't feel like an outcast for once, which is so nice," Nicki Bunting said.

All this fun -- and it's all free, everything paid for by Snowball Express, a non-profit charity. Everywhere the families went they were greeted with applause. Marching bands. Even a patriotic welcome from the sky.

Snowball Express is meant to be a weekend of joy CBS News
 This is the eighth annual Snowball Express but it is the Buntings' first. Which one of them gets more out of the weekend?

"I don't know," Nicki Bunting said. "I really don't know because as much joy as he's getting I probably get that two-fold. Because nothing brings me more joy than to see him happy.

Snowball Express has even changed some lives.  Chris and Danielle Sweet met here four years ago. Both had lost spouses to war.  Now they're married and are raising her two children and his three as one big family.

Chris and Danielle Sweet married after meeting here and are now raising their children as one big family CBS News

Danielle Sweet says it would be hard to get through the emotional holiday season without this event.

"For us, especially the first couple of years, this was a lifesaver," she said. "Because we knew we had this to look forward to."

Are there parts that are difficult?

"Sometimes if you sit back and you look at everybody, you look across the crowd, and you realize that they're here for the same reason," she said.

"Knowing that they've felt the same kind of hurt that you have," she said.

At Snowball Express it's not all about fun. This is also a place for families to remember what they've lost and to cherish what they still have.

  • Chip-Reid_bio_140x100_bw.jpg
    Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.