MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Motorcycle riders and station residents brought holiday cheer to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, during the third-annual Toy Drive and Motorcycle Rally at the Marine Thrift Store, Nov. 22, 2015.
Japanese motorcycle clubs, riders from the air station, and station residents attended the event to donate toys for Japanese orphans and participate in contests from best decorated bike to furthest traveled. This is the first year both Japanese and station motorcycle riders attended the event together.
Mindy Hillyer, manager of Marine Thrift Store and event coordinator, said the toy drive and motorcycle rally not only brightens a child’s day, but also promotes good community relations.
“When you picture a child on Christmas morning, face all lit up and barely containing their excitement, that’s the reaction we get from the orphans when they receive gifts donated through this event,” said Hillyer. “The children gain new friends and a bond with service members that will stay in their hearts for a long time.”
As motorcycles thundered in decked-out with Christmas decorations, station residents and local Japanese gathered at the Marine Thrift Store to drop toys into a giant gift box that quickly overflowed.
“I came for the kids,” said Roberto Torres, event participant. “It makes me feel proud to participate in something good. I feel that giving hope and light to the orphans of Japan now, will help strengthen a wonderful relationship with our host nation in the future.”
Holiday spirits flowed as event participants admired festive motorcycles, sports cars and mingled with eccentrically dressed motorcycle club members.
Shoji Kurisu, event participant and member of the Endangered Species Motorcycle Club, said he doesn’t have kids of his own, but wants to make sure that he can make less fortunate kids happy.
“I enjoy showing off my motorcycle, but it’s important to nurture our children because they are the future of Japan,” said Kurisu. “The orphans will remember the joy they felt and the kindness shown to them by our American friends.”
Led by Robert Carlson, event organizer, riders revved their engines and assembled into a long procession line for Thunder Ride, the final event of the day.
Hillyer and Carlson said they could not thank everyone enough who helped make this event possible and to the participants who donated gifts for the orphans.