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Jason Martin, Hawaiian Falls Mansfield General Manager; Justin La Fond, Hawaiian Falls Mansfield Operations Manager; hosts Debbie & Bobby Jones, Texas Rangers Coach; Bob Apetz, Chairman, Snowball Express

Throughout the history of the United States, brave men and women serving in our military have paid the staggering price of freedom by laying down their lives for our country. And their families pay an awful cost as they adjust to life without their loved ones. In honor of their sacrifice, Hawaiian Falls recently teamed up with the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation to host the Snowball Express, an organization committed to building new memories for the children of fallen military heroes.

“My husband was First Sergeant Jonathan Compton, U.S. Marines,” said Sara Compton of Kennedale, who was at the Mansfield waterpark with her seven-year-old daughter Bailey, her mother-in-law Patti and her brother-in-law David Compton. “Jonathan loved the Marine Corps very much. He joined when he was 17 and served for 15 years. He took his own life right before Thanksgiving 2014 as a result of factors that are affecting many of our military today. We miss him very much. We went to our first Snowball event last Christmas and it was really helpful to meet other families who had lost a loved one.”

Snowball Express is a non-profit organization that provides hope and opportunities to create new memories for the children of military fallen heroes who have died while on active duty since September 11, 2001. More information about the Snowball Express organization is available at http://www.snowballexpress.org.

“It’s good to see these kids smile,” said Texas Rangers coach Bobby Jones, who welcomed the group along with his wife Debbie. Jones, who is in his second consecutive season as a Texas Rangers coach, earned a Bronze Star medal while serving with the Army from 1969 to 1971 in Vietnam. “I lost some friends over there, so I can imagine what it was like for their families. I’m glad we’re able to help these families have a little fun and let the kids just be kids today.”

It’s actually Jones’ third stint on the Rangers staff. He served with Johnny Oates 2000 - 2001. Then he joined the Rangers again under Buck Showalter in 2006. This is his 28th season as a coach or manager in the Texas organization. Jones is the longest-tenured active member of the Rangers' baseball operations department, having started his coaching career as the manager at Charlotte in the Class A Florida State League in 1988. He amassed the most games and victories of any manager in the history of the Texas organization, with 1656 wins ranking him in the top four among active Minor League managers at the end of 2013. Jones also played baseball for the Rangers as an outfielder. He appeared in 314 Major League games over nine seasons from 1974-86.

Amy Weatherford of Corinth lost her husband U.S. Navy Petty Officer First Class William Weatherford in a helicopter crash nearly 10 years ago. She has brought her three sons to the annual Snowball Express event for the past seven years. “It helps the boys to interact with other kids who have lost a mom or dad while serving.  They really know how it feels and what they’re going through. It’s also a way for us to keep their father’s memory alive.”

But this was not a day of mourning. This was a day for splashing in the wavepool and floating carefree down the Lazy River. The Snowflakes, as Snowball Express refers to the kids, laughed and carried on. You’d have been hard pressed to pick them out from any of the other kids enjoying a warm summer day at the waterpark. A step in the right direction for families who have known more than their share of sorrow to create new memories together. That, after all, was the order of the day.

The Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of children in need within our community, and provides funding for youth in crisis, youth health initiatives, youth baseball programs, and youth education. More information is available at http://www.texasrangers.com.

Celebrating more than a decade of bringing families closer together, Hawaiian Falls operates waterparks in Garland, The Colony, Mansfield, Roanoke, Pflugerville and Waco.  More info at hfalls.com or facebook.com/hfalls.

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