HIROSAKI, Japan -- On a brisk early morning, Team Misawa members suited up as Santa, Mrs. Clause, elves and reindeer and boarded a bus headed to a Hirosaki orphanage for holiday fun.
Members of the 35th Operations Group and their families brought joy to kids in unfortunate circumstances at the Hirosaki Ai-Sei-En Orphanage by delivering games, activities and presents to the residents and providing them an opportunity to play with American kids Dec. 9.
“I am happy and so are our children,” expressed Yuki Satou, the Hirosaki Ai-Sei-En lead orphanage caretaker. “They don’t usually experience different cultures, so it’s a really good experience.”
The 35th OG continued a twenty-year tradition of working with the orphanage and gathered approximately $3,750 in donations to buy 38 kids gifts off their personal wish lists.
“It’s just wonderful that these children can have a day to have fun, be kids and enjoy the happiness that most kids take for granted,” said Anna Kenkel, wife of Lt. Col. Matt Kenkel, the 14th Fighter Squadron commander, and volunteer. “This was our fifth time coming here to volunteer, and it was a good event to let the Japanese national kids interact with American children. I loved it.”
Often, children become orphaned due to abusive homes, their parents' inability to provide for their medical needs or because there aren’t family members able to take care of them.
Approximately 70 volunteers came to support the children and provided them with love and attention they might not often receive.
“It’s an awesome volunteer opportunity where we can give the kids an American-style meal and serve them,” said 2nd Lt. Taylor Hollister, the 35th Operations Support Squadron chief of targeting. “Since many don’t have a family, it’s nice for these children to interact with a family who plays with and cares for them. It shows them they’re loved and that someone’s thinking about them.”
Whether dashing through the snow in Hirosaki or volunteering outside in Misawa City’s local community, Team Misawa will always be there to support the host nation who supports them.