A St. Louis woman is hoping to bring smiles and cheer to children who so desperately need it this holiday season. Julie Vinnedge is inviting everyone in her area to show up at Lambert Airport in St. Louis to celebrate a very special sendoff, reports Fox2Now.com
Julie Vinnedge has started making a living by warming hearts, even though her heart has been crushed.
"This Christmas is very difficult for us," she said, standing in the lobby of a St. Peters, Missouri, bank, smiling at a pile of toys. "But this makes me feel wonderful."
Her son, Philip Vinnedge was a 19-year-old United States Marine Lance Corporal killed in action in Afghanistan on October 13, 2010.
"Phillip should be able to be home," she said. "Last year he was going to be deployed so we were prepared. But this Christmas he should be in my living room Christmas morning."
He is what has inspired her to become so involved in the Marine Corps' annual Toys for Tots toy drive, and the reason she's has also taken on another special project, and she needs all of St. Louis to help her make it special.
It's called the Snowball Express, and it departs Lambert Airport on Friday.
This is the sixth Christmas in a row that American Airlines is flying 1,700 kids from all across the country to Dallas for a special holiday weekend.
They are the children of military men and women who've died in war since 9/11. Like Julie, these kids live with the pain of having to say goodbye too soon. Ten kids and their families will be leaving St. Louis Friday afternoon and Julie is organizing a huge sendoff party for them at 11 a.m. at the USO in Terminal
"These kids don't have to explain their situation to me," she said. "I understand it." "And I would love to get the airport filled with people that just cheer these kids on and tell them that their sacrifice was not for nothing," she said.
"This is only a small, small way of giving something back to these families," said Glenn Miller, American Airlines St. Louis General Manager. "You know, to walk on the aircraft and see the kids and the families, if that doesn`t touch your heart, nothing ever will, especially at this time of year."
Vinnedge spreads a special invitation to everyone who wishes to come out and support the families.
"Meet me at the USO at 11:00. Bring signs, bring smiles, bring Santa hats, bring whatever you can, and just let these kids know they're not forgotten and what their parent did is never going to be forgotten. Tell them that we appreciate it."