News: Motorcycle riders donate toys at MCAS Iwakuni
Story by Lance Cpl. David Walters
IWAKUNI, Japan - Giving. ‘Tis the season to give and that is what approximately 200 motorcycle riders throughout Japan gathered to do at the Marine Thrift Store aboard Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Nov. 24, 2013.
The Marine Thrift Store opened its doors to both Japanese and Americans to attend their first Motorcycle Rally and Toy Drive event.
Lt. Col. James Walker, the station airfield operations officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, assisted in organizing the toy drive for what he said was an event which “Japanese see us at our best.”
“This is more than just a toy drive,” said Walker. “This is a community relations event. We are attracting a type of crowd that we don’t normally see while we are out here, and they get to see Marines volunteering.”
The Provost Marshal’s Office, Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting, Explosive Ordnance Disposal and other volunteers arrived early in preparation to showcase their equipment in static displays.
When motorcyclists arrived at the thrift store, they lined up with toys in their hands that they brought and placed them inside the donation bin to help support the cause.
“The goal is to collect at least 100 toys and send everyone away with a good, positive impression of MCAS Iwakuni,” said Walker.
The donations exceeded expectation when volunteers collected approximately 250 toys, thanks to the riders’ help.
Retired Army 1st Sgt. David Baggett, the treasurer for the Marine Thrift Store, helped organize and run the event.
Baggett said he wanted to give the Japanese kids of Iwakuni a positive, long-lasting impression of U.S. service members.
“Some may be too young to understand,” said Baggett. “But when they grow up and still have this toy that they received from one of these young Marines, then they will realize how much it means.”
While it’s just one event, the toy drive helped to support the larger cause.
“The big thing behind this event is community relations,” said Baggett. “I don’t think we can do enough to tell the Japanese people ‘thank you for letting us be here.’ Picking up the toys and giving them to the Japanese community is the best thing we can do.”
The next step for the toys includes a sorting process conducted by the thrift store employees in age groups and giving them to individual organizations that visit children’s homes for distribution.
If anyone wishes to make a donation, the thrift shop is accepting donations until Dec. 15. Thrift store employees plan to have a box set up at the station tree lighting ceremony Nov. 30.
Hours for donation at the thrift shop are: Monday 12-3 p.m., Wednesday and Friday 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 4 p.m.-6:30 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.