MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
A crowd gathered Dec. 18th for the arrival of 51 Japanese orphans from the Yahata Children’s home for the 6th Annual MCX Angel Tree Gift Exchange held at the Marine Corps Exchange here.
The community was given the opportunity to select angels from the MCX angel tree with a child’s name and age.
“My husband and I initially picked a 5 year-old,” said April Lombard, angel tree gift exchange sponsor. “We wanted to go back and get a teenager but by the time we went back they were all gone.”
After the selection, the child participants were able to purchase gifts and return them under the tree.
“My husband and I split up the presents,” said Lombard. “He wanted to get the toys, the Japanese Power Rangers, and I wanted to get something he could play with outside; the scooter and helmet, so we split the difference.”
The children lined up from youngest to oldest and as their names were called they were given the opportunity to sit on Santa’s lap, take a picture and receive their gift from him.
“I love giving to others, I don’t have kids yet so it’s a good way to give back what I’ve received in life,” said Lombard.
Once the smiling children received their gift and took their picture with Santa, they met with their gift-giving family and opened their present.
“I couldn’t wait to watch him open his gift,” said Lombard.
Once all the wrapping paper was torn away and the excited children opened their presents, they spent the rest of their time with their angel tree sponsors.
“It’s definitely rewarding for the kids that aren’t used to the attention and love,” said Navy Capt. Anthony Baker, Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 command chaplain and coordinator for the event. “When they leave, they’re smiling from ear-to-ear and waving because they’re just happy.”
The children’s home was started after the bomb was dropped in Hiroshima, Japan by the family of Motoko Murakami.
The Murakami family started the children’s home in response to the tragedy that left many children without parents.
“The base has always reached out to this particular home,” said Baker. “When I became chaplain, the relationship was handed over to me and I make sure we visit often.”
Bunny Clark, event coordinator, brought the Angel Tree Gift Exchange to the MCX six years ago.
Gifts would be purchased through the MCX and delivered to various organizations and children’s homes.
“Over the years, I was given authorization through the MCX administrators to bring the children in early so that they could get the gifts from Santa and so the community could participate,” said Clark.
Through the Angel Tree Gift Exchange, the community is able to find the spirit of the holiday season and give back.
“There’s definitely a sense of satisfaction you get from just giving to the children,” said Baker. “It’s good for the Marines to be a part of something like this to break them out of their routine.”
The angels went fast this year spreading smiles, joy and holiday cheer to the children from the Yahata Children’s home.