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Orphans merry with Marine Christmas celebration

Date Posted: 2003-12-25

CAMP KINSER, Okinawa, Japan Christmas is the time for giving, and not just presents, but giving smiles and special moments to those who may not have families.

That is what an estimated 550 Marines, Sailors and their families from Marine Air Control Group (MACG)-18 did when they shared their Christmas party at the Kinser Fitness Center, December 6, with 60 orphans from the Shimazoe No Oka Childrens Home.

"Throughout the year, the units of MACG-18 provide community relations to the Shimazoe Childrens Home," said Dorothey D. Bannister, event organizer. "We bring the year to a close with a command sponsored Christmas party for the children and staff."

According to Bannister, this year's party was a little different than the last few years.

"Previous years, the party was designed and focused specifically on providing a fun filled environment for the orphans. This year the intent was to focus more on the Marines and Sailors of (MACG-18) while hosting the children at the same time," Bannister said.

The chance to spend time and bond with the orphans was a great opportunity for the servicemembers and their families.

"My daughter participated last year and didn't know kids were in this situation," said Kevin Sweeney, who with his daughter Keela and wife Debbie, sponsored orphan Megumi. "She enjoyed her time with the orphans last year, and she begged to do it again this year."

Single servicemem-bers also benefited from the experience.
"I used to be a camp counselor and this is the closest thing on Okinawa to be around kids," said Robert Graves, who sponsored a very active Keiyu.

"He's tough to follow around. He has a lot of energy, but I really like being around kids," Graves said.

Hoola hoop, limbo and dance contests, a "chubby bunny" marshmallow eating contest and craft tables for all age groups kept the service members and orphans busy.

"Our goal was to have the Japanese children join in some fun contests and activities they had not seen before," said Leanda M Moore, event coordinator. "It was a tremendous success, and of course there were prizes for each contestant whether they won or lost."

"Our goal was to bring some American Christmas cheer to the children of the orphanage and show them some American traditions of Christmas like the Christmas meal and getting gifts from Santa," Moore added.

The experience for both the orphans and the sponsors was a positive one, according to Bannister.

"This was my third year coordinating and assisting with the Christmas party and I have never seen so much joy come across the faces of both the children of Shimazoe and their sponsors," she said. "It warms the hearts of all to give to those in need."

The Japanese translator told Moore that in the 15 years MACG-18 has been sponsoring the orphanage, the children had the most fun at this event because of great sponsors, gifts and all the activities available for the children.

"It is a great experience to share the spirit of giving with those that are less fortunate and hopefully this spirit will carry on with the Marines and Sailors even when they go back to the States," Moore said.

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