By Wendy Brown, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsOctober 8, 2019
TOKYO (Oct. 8, 2019) -- There are two main reasons Sgt. Day'ion Womack appreciates his most recent volunteer experience with Camp Zama's Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program, or BOSS.
First, Womack was excited to make care packages for orphanages in the Camp Zama area and for Soldiers stationed in remote and isolated areas of Japan.
As a Soldier who was adopted as a child, "It holds a special place in my heart," Womack said. "It always feels good to give back to the community at any point in time that you can."
Secondly, Womack got to make the "NBA Cares" packages with Chris Bosh, Shawn Marion and Dikembe Mutombo, three legends of the NBA whom he grew up watching as a basketball fan.
"I've been a big Chris Bosh fan since, like, 2003," Womack said. "I followed his whole career from college all the way through the NBA."
Womack was one of about 35 BOSS Soldiers who traveled to the Grand Hyatt Tokyo Oct. 6 to make 1,000 care packages with the NBA legends, and the former players said they had fun making the care packages and meeting the Soldiers.
Bosh, for example, said he has several cousins who are either in the military or retired from the military, and he enjoys talking to Soldiers.
"[The military has] been in my family and my wife's family, and talking to them, they've given me different insight to their stories and what they go through," said Bosh, a two-time NBA champion who played for both the Toronto Raptors the Miami Heat. "When I visit bases and do events like this, I make sure that I talk to the guys and, you know, just talk and hang out."
Marion, a member of the 2011 NBA championship-winning Dallas Mavericks, said he had a lot of fun filling the bags, listening to music and meeting the Soldiers.
"We talked and socialized with the Soldiers and just had a great time," Marion said. "What more can I say about the Soldiers? They do so much for us and they're the reason why we're safe at home in the states."
The BOSS program, which has chapters throughout the Army and falls under Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, provides leisure and recreation, community service and quality-of-life opportunities for Soldiers who are single or geographical bachelors. At each installation, a senior enlisted adviser, an MWR adviser and BOSS president manage the program.
Randy Benton, special events coordinator for Camp Zama FMWR and the Camp Zama BOSS MWR adviser, said organizers chose which Soldiers would attend the event by the number of volunteer hours they had performed.
The care packages for the orphanages contained a variety of school supplies and candy, while the packages for the Soldiers contained NBA-branded items such as playing cards, towels and T-shirts. Organizers laid the items out on two long series of tables, and the players and Soldiers walked around in circles putting items in black drawstring bags.
The Soldiers took the bags back with them and will distribute the bags to the orphanages and Soldiers at later dates, Benton said.
The NBA paid for the items in the care packages, Benton said, and the event came about after MWR officials learned the NBA holds games in Japan and inquired about volunteer opportunities with the organization.
U.S. Army Garrison Japan Command Sgt. Maj. Billy Norman, the Camp Zama BOSS senior enlisted adviser, spoke at the event's beginning, thanking the players and NBA and hotel officials for the opportunity.
"It's something that we really hold near and dear to our hearts, being able to give back to the community," Norman said.
The Army likes to treat the communities around installations as family, so the packages for the orphanages are important in that regard, Norman said.
Likewise, the packages for the remote and isolated Soldiers around Japan allow BOSS to thank them and let them know others are thinking about them, Norman said.
Pfc. Jeselyn Alcantara, a BOSS Soldier who participated, said she is not a big NBA fan, but enjoys volunteering and had a good time interacting with everyone.
"The NBA legends, they were really great people; very nice, very genuine people," Alcantara said.