Okinawa Marine follows family tradition, helps children's home
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The old saying “Christmas in July” rang true for a local children’s home as one Marine went out of his way to donate toys, clothes and school supplies to residents.
Marine Cpl. Joel Collins, a driving instructor at the Base Safety Office, donated several boxes of the items to the Misato Children’s Home in Okinawa City on Monday, carrying on somewhat of a family tradition.
“My cousin (Chuck McWilliams Jr.) was in the Marine Corps and was stationed here for one year” in 2003-2004, Collins said. “He would call and tell me about visiting children’s homes.”
Collins said once he arrived in October, he began seeking a children’s home to which he could donate and visit. With the help of the base Community Relations, he found Misato.
Collins then contacted his family and asked if they’d like to help. His mother, Tammy Wish, and his cousin’s parents, Chuck and Lucy McWilliams, responded with some of the items donated Monday.
About 50 2- to 18-year-olds live at the home, according to Katsuhiko Itokazu, deputy director. He said the items were to be distributed to the children Monday afternoon.
“I am sure they will be all excited,” Itokazu said.
Collins said his family learned of the hardships children in similar homes can face because his grandmother, Carolyn Anderson, worked in a children’s home in Cromwell, Conn.
“I’ve seen first-hand how rough it was for kids there,” he said. “I just like kids. … I have a soft spot for those less fortunate.”
Itokazu said the home appreciates Collins’ contribution and the overall support shown by the military.
“Like the Marine who generously donated the toys and stationery to our children today, people from the military community on Okinawa have always supported our facility for many years,” he said. “Besides the material support, the thoughts they offer to our children are great emotional support.”
The children “can feel that many American people, as well as the local community, are watching over them,” said Itokazu. “It is this feeling that helps the children’s healthy growth.”
Collins said his family was happy to hear the home gladly accepted the gifts and that he was able to visit the facility. He plans to return to the home soon, he said, so he can visit with the children there.
Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.