Camp Zama community members donate toys to children’s homes

By Sean Kimmons, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsJune 3, 2024

Lt. Col. Damon Saxton, right, the U.S. Army Garrison Japan chaplain, hands out donated gifts to children at the Seiko Gakuen Children’s Home in Zama City, Japan, May 30, 2024. The gifts were mainly donated by religious followers from Camp Zama and Naval Air Facility Atsugi as part of an effort to support local youths in the community.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Lt. Col. Damon Saxton, right, the U.S. Army Garrison Japan chaplain, hands out donated gifts to children at the Seiko Gakuen Children’s Home in Zama City, Japan, May 30, 2024. The gifts were mainly donated by religious followers from Camp Zama and Naval Air Facility Atsugi as part of an effort to support local youths in the community. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
Lt. Col. Damon Saxton, the U.S. Army Garrison Japan chaplain, and other community members handed out gifts to children at the Sagamihara Minami Children’s Home in Sagamihara City, Japan, May 30, 2024. The gifts were mainly donated by religious followers from Camp Zama and Naval Air Facility Atsugi as part of an effort to support local youths in the community.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Lt. Col. Damon Saxton, the U.S. Army Garrison Japan chaplain, and other community members handed out gifts to children at the Sagamihara Minami Children’s Home in Sagamihara City, Japan, May 30, 2024. The gifts were mainly donated by religious followers from Camp Zama and Naval Air Facility Atsugi as part of an effort to support local youths in the community. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL

CAMP ZAMA, Japan – The U.S. Army Garrison Japan chaplain and other community members brought smiles to the faces of local youths Thursday after they donated several gifts to two nearby children’s homes.

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Damon Saxton led the delivery effort that had gifts mainly donated by religious followers from Camp Zama and Naval Air Facility Atsugi.

The toys, which were each handed to the children, included a Nintendo Switch video game console, games and controllers; Blu-ray disc recorders; sports equipment; and candy.

“I’ve always felt like when I’m in a foreign country, but even in America, that I am an ambassador,” Saxton said. “So, it’s important for us to be a good example of American values. And one of our American values is to take care of children in need.”

The group first traveled to Sagamihara Minami Children’s Home in Sagamihara City, where they were greeted by smiling children who were eager to talk with them.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sora Izawa, one of the care providers at the home, said that the children could not have visitors for some time and only interacted with staff members.

“The children didn’t have any opportunities to engage with adults from the outside,” she said, “so having this opportunity will help the children grow and be much more sociable.”

Izawa said the children appreciated the gifts and believed the video games will be popular since many of the children play them after school.

“Their freedom is very limited and what we can provide for the kids is also very limited,” she said, “so we are very thankful that [the visitors] came and donated the gifts.”

Lt. Col. Damon Saxton, the U.S. Army Garrison Japan chaplain, and other community members handed out gifts to children at the Seiko Gakuen Children’s Home in Zama City, Japan, May 30, 2024. The gifts were mainly donated by religious followers from Camp Zama and Naval Air Facility Atsugi as part of an effort to support local youths in the community.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Lt. Col. Damon Saxton, the U.S. Army Garrison Japan chaplain, and other community members handed out gifts to children at the Seiko Gakuen Children’s Home in Zama City, Japan, May 30, 2024. The gifts were mainly donated by religious followers from Camp Zama and Naval Air Facility Atsugi as part of an effort to support local youths in the community. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
A boy at the Sagamihara Minami Children’s Home in Sagamihara City, Japan, admires a soccer ball that was given to the home May 30, 2024. Lt. Col. Damon Saxton, the U.S. Army Garrison Japan chaplain, and other community members donated several gifts to the home as part of an effort to support local youths in the community.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A boy at the Sagamihara Minami Children’s Home in Sagamihara City, Japan, admires a soccer ball that was given to the home May 30, 2024. Lt. Col. Damon Saxton, the U.S. Army Garrison Japan chaplain, and other community members donated several gifts to the home as part of an effort to support local youths in the community. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL

Next, the group headed to Zama City to meet with children at the Seiko Gakuen Children’s Home.

Since the end of World War II, the Camp Zama community has supported the home with gift and food donations and other volunteer efforts over the years, said Masahiko Suzuki, a clerk at the home.

While initially shy with the visitors, the children who greeted the group began to open up when some of the visitors spoke Japanese with them.

“They were very nervous at first, but when [the visitors] started speaking to them, they really enjoyed themselves,” Suzuki said. “They were happy to receive the gifts and I’m also very thankful for the heartfelt donations.”

Afterward, Saxton said being able to put smiles on the children’s faces made everything worth it.

“I had a very charmed childhood,” he said. “I had a mom and a dad who loved me, and it breaks my heart to see kids and people that don’t have the same blessings, the same privilege.

“And so, to let the kids know there are people that are thinking about them, care about them and that want them to be happy and successful – that means a lot to me.”

Saxton said he would like to build on this event, such as having Camp Zama personnel offer the children free English lessons. He also hoped these types of events will provide more awareness to people who may want to assist the homes.

“I think it’s important because there are probably people here at Camp Zama that want to be involved,” he said. “And if they knew that there were organizations doing that kind of stuff, maybe it would encourage them to come out and be part of the community.”

Related links:

U.S. Army Garrison Japan news

USAG Japan official website