Competition builds friendships at Tai Chu En Children's Home
ITOMAN CITY, Okinawa - Oftentimes, those involved in athletics create a bond with their teammates that transcends sports itself. That distinctive bond was established between the residents and staff of the Tai Chu En Children’s Home and service members during a recent Sports Day celebration.
Marines and sailors with Combat Logistics Regiment 35 participated in the event Oct. 14 in Itoman City, Okinawa.
“It’s great for us to be able to come here and break down the boundaries of language and culture (through) something we both love – sports,” said Lt. Cmdr. Harvey C. Macklin, the CLR-35 chaplain, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
Sports Day, a national holiday in Japan, is held annually on the second Monday of October. It commemorates the opening of the 1964 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo, and is designed to promote sports and an active lifestyle.
The celebration was not only important because of the annual holiday, but because of the time spent with the residents, according to Yoshi Uehara, the liaison between Tai Chu En and Camp Kinser and teacher at the home.
“It’s kind of looked at as family time whenever visitors are able to come by,” said Uehara. “It’s a great opportunity for cultural exchanges and building friendships.”
The volunteers competed against each other, staff, children and mentally handicapped adult residents of the home in various and unique races, relays and events.
“It was completely different from sports events we usually have in the military,” said Cpl. Nyree L. Wilson, a volunteer and warehouse clerk with the regiment. “Their races seem to be more creative and focus more on fun instead of competitiveness.”
The celebration concluded with prizes given to participants, and for volunteers like Wilson, it brought back memories of her time in high school.
“Participating in the Sports Day was normal for me,” said Wilson. “It was just like a track meet but with different events. It’s how you meet new and different people.”
The friendships, along with the shared passion for sports between both the service members and the residents and staff of the home, are what made the day so special, according to Macklin.
“I think what our volunteers saw today was that there’s more value in the interaction we (had) with the staff and residents than us competing with them,” said Macklin. “It’s not always about winning, it’s about the sportsmanship.”