DVIDS – Information – Marines give messages of hope to kids in hospital

A typical day at Okinawa Prefecture’s Nanbu Child Medical Center in Haebaru will have large numbers of people entering the facility, but recently, much of the daily pedestrian traffic has stopped at the doors. This is not due to the center’s newly introduced precautionary measures, but rather to the fact that three large, colorful boards with numerous messages of encouragement and wishes for a speedy recovery are on display in the center.

Hiroko Tomimura, the community relations specialist for Camps Foster and Lester, delivered messages from over 50 Marines to cheer up the children at the medical center during the January 28, 2021 pandemic.

Due to COVID prevention measures, Tomimura was unable to enter the medical center. Instead, she was met outside by the assistant director, a child life specialist, a child care volunteer, along with others who would help show the children the messages.

“These message boards are sure to make the children happy,” said Natsumi Sakugawa, a child life specialist who supports hospital children psychologically and socially to reduce stress, with a big smile.

Sending messages to the children didn’t come out of the blue. According to Tomimura, the Marine Corps and Children’s Hospital have had a relationship since the summer of 2014.

Although they had no interactions last year due to the current pandemic, the Marines have visited the children once a month since November 2015. They stayed for an hour, played games, read books, and taught the children English.

“The kids were so excited. It was especially helpful when the Marines helped us make muuchi (a traditional Okinawan steamed rice cake wrapped in ginger leaves) two years ago, ”said Sakugawa.

Tomimura remembered this rare but good experience of the Marines. “It was just kneading the mixed ingredients for Muuchi, but Marines had so much fun with kids.”

With such interactions being postponed for a year because of COVID-19, Tomimura looked for a way to encourage and cheer up the children in the hospital. She asked the medical center and they requested a message board with pictures of the marines to accompany their messages.

Without wasting time, Tomimura took action and emailed Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific-Marine Corps Base Camp Butler. She also asked volunteers from the Navy Transition Guard at a neighboring elementary school to write messages for the children.

“It was difficult to get pictures of everyone, but they were all sincere and wrote heartwarming messages,” said Tomimura. “I really hope this news will reach the children and cheer them up.”

Staff Sergeant Erick A. Mora, Head of Warehouse Management, Headquarters Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 3, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, was one of the elementary school’s volunteer border guards and said, “I’ve never written cheering messages to children in a hospital, but I wanted something too write that hopefully makes them feel good. I have kids so I thought of them as I wrote. I thought, “What would I say to my child to get their hopes up? What can I say to make it forget what is? it continues?'”

According to Sakugawa, each message board was originally intended to be placed in the play area in three places where the children would be. However, because the message boards were so encouraging, the hospital decided to display them at the main entrance before moving them to the children’s wards.

Recording date: 08/04/2021
Release Date: 07/22/2021 9:05 PM
Story ID: 401558
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