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Fallen Soldier's Daughter Raises Money with 5k - John Dunn

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FRANKLIN, Tenn. -- Hundreds of people are running with purpose on this Memorial Day weekend. A very special 5k race was held in Franklin.

The young lady at the center of all is remembering her father and raising money for a unique group. "We're hosting the 5k, and I'm just beside myself excited," says 16 year old Samantha Ponder.

Samantha Ponder is inspired by her father. In June 2005 Tre Ponder was killed when his helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan. The mission is chronicled in the book and movie "Lone Survivor." "He wanted to help other people, and he loved his job, and he loved his family," says Samantha Ponder.

In the years that followed, the Ponder family carried on. A highlight for them, and many other families, are the holiday trips with an organization called "Snowball Express," which serves children of the fallen. "At Snowball I don't have to put on a mask because everyone understands my situation," says Samantha Ponder.

As the wars wind down, donations to Snowball Express are lower. Samantha and her younger sister Elizabeth decided to hold this race to raise money. Their mother says despite the tragic loss of their dad, they want to help others. "During the whole planning of this 5k race there were moments when I would break down, because he would have been so proud of his daughters for doing this," says Leslie Ponder.
It is fitting this race is held on Memorial Day weekend. It is also just a short distance from the bridge named for Tre Ponder. Some of the 500 runners carry flags, and others have military backgrounds.

It was perfect for Samantha Ponder. Runners are supporting an organization she cares about, and Samantha is remembering her dad. "There's nothing we can do to bring them back, but we can sure celebrate their lives," says Samantha Ponder.

The Ponders say they raised enough money to send up to 80 children on "Snowball Express" trips this year.

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