“Thank you for bringing so many smiles to the children’s faces,” said Miki Takahashi, Chief of Nurses at the Yokohama City University Medical Center Department of Pediatrics. “The children, parents, and hospital staff appreciate your kindness from the bottom of our hearts.”
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Ray Denny (left), NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Command Evaluation Director and Resident Santa for the U. S. Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots Program at Yokosuka, stands with a Japanese mother and child, while Staff Sgt. Winston Labriel-Mejia (center), NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Marine Liaison Detachment senior noncommissioned officer, and CS2 Ericka Lowndes, NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Provisions Customer Service Representative, present toys to the young patient at the Yokohama City University Medical Center Department of Pediatrics Dec. 18.
Takahashi is giving thanks for a recent trip made by Sailors, Marines and civilian personnel from NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Yokosuka who visited the young hospital patients and hand-delivered brand new presents Dec. 18 at the hospital in Yokohama, Japan. The gifts were collected on Yokosuka Naval Base from U.S. military and civilian community members, through the Toys for Tots Program.
The U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program in the Kanto Region collects new, unwrapped toys October through December each year on U. S. military bases with U.S. Marines standing in their dress uniforms outside stores and shops, braving the cold weather day and night to collect the toys.
“It was an extremely humbling experience seeing those beautiful children,” said Staff Sgt. Winston Labriel-Mejia, NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Marine Liaison Detachment Senior Noncommissioned Officer. “It felt great bringing smiles to kids that could've been my own regardless of sickness or injury and the environment was so positive and uplifting … I will never forget it.”
The young patients were all able to receive a gift personally from Santa and his NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka helpers.
“The kindness and generosity of our military community never ceases to amaze me,” said Ray Denny, NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Command Evaluation Director and Resident Santa for the U. S. Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots Program at Yokosuka. “This season, the Yokosuka Community has provided a most precious holiday gift -- faith in the unlimited possibilities of the human spirit.”
Denny added his thanks to the entire Yokosuka community for supporting the 2013 Toys for Tots drive.
“With the communities' generosity, we were able to provide thousands of toys to needy homes, orphanages, children's hospitals, care centers, shelters and non-profit organizations not only in Japan, Korea and Thailand, but also to the Republic of the Philippines where recent typhoons and earthquakes have caused catastrophic damage to many cities and towns.”
Denny, who is a retired Master Chief Petty Officer and career logistician has been donning his red suit for many years and assisting NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka in getting as many gifts as possible out to children in need, however, this hospital visit is near and dear to his heart.
“About eight years ago, one of the Supply Officer's in the command had a child who was near death and hospitalized for an unknown disease and the Naval Hospital sought assistance from the Japanese medical community and the child was transferred to the Yokohama University Medical Center during the month of December for treatment,” Denny said. “It was Christmastime, along with the illness came depression about not being home for Christmas.”
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Ray Denny (left), NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Command Evaluation Director and Resident Santa for the U. S. Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots Program at Yokosuka, comforts a small child and brings several Christmas presents together with Staff Sgt. Winston Labriel-Mejia (right), NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Marine Liaison Detachment senior noncommissioned officer, during a visit to the Yokohama City University Medical Center Department of Pediatrics Dec. 18.
“When the father told me of the concern, I asked him if a visit from Santa could change the situation. The father said it would make a world of difference. So I asked the parents to check with the hospital to see if Santa could visit all of the children. After all, Santa cannot just visit one child. After a quick meeting with the doctors, Santa was allowed to come visit the kids,” Denny explained.
“After learning that many of the kids were chronically and terminally ill, Santa with help from the community, made sure that every child received a present,” said Denny. “Since then, the outpour of community support has been overwhelming and the visits have continued ever since.”
“Every year when Santa visits the hospital, everyone is looking forward to it,” Takahashi said.
The team received hugs, hand shakes, thank you’s and tears of joy from parents and staff, Labriel-Mejia added.
“Words cannot describe how it made me feel,” said Labriel-Mejia. “It brought me joy knowing that for that moment in time the hurt on a little girl or boy was gone and they could just be a happy child rather than a patient.”
The kids would rather be at home celebrating the holidays rather than in a hospital but this event brings them some joy, Takahashi said.
“I am so happy because most of the time spent at the hospital has been painful and not enjoyable for my child, who came in with severe fever and seizures,” said one Japanese mother who held her two-year old child in her arms. “We are thankful for the kind gifts from the U.S. Navy, and an added blessing is that my son has been treated and gets to come home this weekend.”
For one Sailor who took part, it allowed her to show her host-nation how much she cares for them and how the U.S. Navy cares for the children’s welfare.
“Being there made me feel blessed and touched,” explained CS2 Ericka Lowndes, NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Provisions Customer Service Representative. “I felt like I was apart of their lives if only for just a couple of hours … but I know they will remember the U.S. Navy Sailor that visited them.”
Story and Photos by Sky M. Laron, NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Director of Corporate Communications