YOKOSUKA, Japan — The seven first class petty officers working for Commander Naval Forces Japan are hosting a bowling and pizza party for 77 local orphans Saturday at the base bowling alley.

The party will run from 4 to 8 p.m. on 12 reserved lanes with bumpers and slides to accommodate even the smallest bowlers.

“It’s incredible,” organizer Petty Officer 1st Class Kay Blankenship said Thursday. “It’s heartwarming to see them enjoy their time.”

The children are from the Shunko-Gakuen orphanage in Kinugasa, about 20 minutes from the base. The petty officers’ organization began sponsoring the orphanage three years ago.

In addition to holiday parties, the group has visited the orphanage bringing sports equipment and games.

At the first Christmas party sponsored by the petty officers three years ago, orphans ages 2 to 17 went roller skating.

Last year they bowled.

That was a bigger hit than roller skating, so they’re doing it again this year, Blankenship said.

“I think it’s a rare treat,” she said.

Between games and eating pizza, children will be given presents — electronic games, stuffed animals, Legos, microscopes, telescopes and the like — and get their pictures taken with Santa Claus and an associate who goes by the name of Miss Elf.

Joining in the party will be about 10 children whose parents work for the command, Blankenship said. The idea is to have a child-to-child connection.

“We’d hoped more would come out,” she said.

The bowling alley manager threw in bowling shoes for free, leaving the petty officers to spend an estimated $800 on the party, Blankenship said.

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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