CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Dec. 15, 2020) – Mildred Traver wasn’t sure what to do when her son Victor Lamison told her all he wanted for his 11th birthday was something original from Japan.
“How am I supposed to pull this off?” Mildred asked some of her coworkers at the Warhawk Air Museum in Nampa, Idaho, where she works as the membership coordinator. Victor, who has cerebral palsy, was recovering from his most recent surgery, and she wanted to make his birthday extraordinary.
“Mildred, let me make a few phone calls,” said her boss, retired Col. Pat Kilroy, the museum’s executive director. “Let me see if I can make this happen for you.”
Before she knew it, a package from Lucinda Ward, former school liaison officer for U.S. Army Garrison Japan, arrived on Mildred’s doorstep. The package contained original Japanese Pokémon cards and a letter in Japanese and English to Victor.
“Pat, it came! I’m so excited!” Mildred told her boss. Still, she kept the package a secret until Victor’s birthday Nov. 29. In a Zoom interview after he received the package, Victor, Mildred and her husband James Traver said they appreciated it a lot.
Victor, who is fascinated by Japan and hopes to visit, asked several questions about food, places to visit and school in Japan.
The Pokémon cards are “really cool,” Victor said, and his favorite one is the Umbreon card because “electricity is its power.”
Ward said she bought the cards, approximately 25 of them, from a Camp Zama community member, and Karen Matsumoto, an information and editorial specialist with the U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs Office, helped her translate the letter into Japanese.
Both letters are hand-written in ink to give them a personal touch, Ward said, and she framed them with Japanese paper as a backdrop. In addition, the cards arrived in a unique origami box made from Japanese printed paper.
Fulfilling the request was important to her because it was a small gesture that could make a child’s day, Ward said.
“Children dream big,” Ward said. “As a prior educator and a current professional, I understand the importance of cultivating and feeding a child’s dream. His request was not farfetched, nor one that was too hard to fulfill. To me, one act of kindness can truly cause a ripple of amazing turn of events.”
Ward was the garrison’s school liaison officer when she sent the package, but has since become the garrison’s Army Community Service relocation specialist and Army volunteer manager.
Victor’s goal of visiting Japan has helped him make progress since his surgery, Mildred said.
“We started using [the trip to Japan] as a reinforcement in physical therapy,” Mildred said. “I told him, ‘It’s probably going to be a lot of walking, so you’ve got to keep going with physical therapy. You’ve got to keep getting stronger. You can’t give up. When your legs really start working again, and we get strong again, that’s going to be a possibility for us.’”
So far, Victor has progressed from a wheelchair to a walker to walking independently, Mildred said, and the trip has been a great motivation for him.
“We’re trying to get him to walk for at least 30 minutes a day so he can get stronger,” Mildred said. “I told him there’s lots to see out there and I don’t want him tired. If we’re going to make this trip, I want him as healthy as possible, and for him to see everything that he wants to see.”
In the meantime, Victor will enjoy the cards and continue learning about Japan.
“He never asked for anything else for his birthday, just this package,” Mildred said.