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U.S. Airmen share holiday spirit with Hirosaki orphans

Santa Claus gives a Hirosaki Ai-Sei-En orphan a Christmas gift during a visit at Hirosaki, Japan, Dec. 8, 2018. The 35th Operations Group annually visits the orphanage to bring gifts, games and other activities to those who are less fortunate, raising approximately $5,000 for this year’s event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sadie Colbert)

Santa Claus gives a Hirosaki Ai-Sei-En orphan a Christmas gift during a visit at Hirosaki, Japan, Dec. 8, 2018. The 35th Operations Group annually visits the orphanage to bring gifts, games and other activities to those who are less fortunate, raising approximately $5,000 for this year’s event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sadie Colbert)

A Hirosaki Ai-Sei-En orphan laughs with friends during the 35th Operations Group’s annual holiday visit, in Hirosaki, Japan, Dec. 8, 2018. The 35th OG supported approximately 40 orphans, bringing them a special Christmas celebration by raising more than $5,000 for the event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sadie Colbert)

A Hirosaki Ai-Sei-En orphan laughs with friends during the 35th Operations Group’s annual holiday visit, in Hirosaki, Japan, Dec. 8, 2018. The 35th OG supported approximately 40 orphans, bringing them a special Christmas celebration by raising more than $5,000 for the event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sadie Colbert)

Christmas lights glow before being hung during a Hirosaki Ai-Sei-En orphanage visit at Hirosaki, Japan, Dec. 8, 2018. The 35th Operations Group raised approximately $5,000 in order to provide food, a bouncy castle and gifts from Santa during their visit, letting the children know they are loved and cared for by people outside of their community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sadie Colbert)

Christmas lights glow before being hung during a Hirosaki Ai-Sei-En orphanage visit at Hirosaki, Japan, Dec. 8, 2018. The 35th Operations Group raised approximately $5,000 in order to provide food, a bouncy castle and gifts from Santa during their visit, letting the children know they are loved and cared for by people outside of their community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sadie Colbert)

Kristen Cockrum, wife of U.S. Air Force Col. Jason Cockrum, the 35th Operations Group commander, sets up a Christmas tree during a Hirosaki Ai-Sei-En orphanage visit, at Hirosaki, Japan, Dec. 8, 2018. During the visit, members dressed as Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, elves and reindeer who delivered gifts from the children’s wish lists. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sadie Colbert)

Kristen Cockrum, wife of U.S. Air Force Col. Jason Cockrum, the 35th Operations Group commander, sets up a Christmas tree during a Hirosaki Ai-Sei-En orphanage visit, at Hirosaki, Japan, Dec. 8, 2018. During the visit, members dressed as Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, elves and reindeer who delivered gifts from the children’s wish lists. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sadie Colbert)

Rocco Pompa, left, son of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Doyle Pompa, the 35th Operations Group deputy commander, paints with Capt. Jaclyn Dzieciolowski, center, the 35th OG command support staff officer in charge, during a Hirosaki Ai-Sei-En orphanage visit at Hirosaki, Japan, Dec. 8, 2018. The orphanage encouraged volunteers to bring as many of their children as possible to give the children at the orphanage an opportunity to play with their own small-sized American friends. (U.S. Air Force photo by Branden Yamada)

Rocco Pompa, left, son of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Doyle Pompa, the 35th Operations Group deputy commander, paints with Capt. Jaclyn Dzieciolowski, center, the 35th OG command support staff officer in charge, during a Hirosaki Ai-Sei-En orphanage visit at Hirosaki, Japan, Dec. 8, 2018. The orphanage encouraged volunteers to bring as many of their children as possible to give the children at the orphanage an opportunity to play with their own small-sized American friends. (U.S. Air Force photo by Branden Yamada)

A Hirosaki Ai-Sei-En chef, left, and U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cherylin Santos, a 35th Operations Group command support staff section chief, pounds mochi during a Hirosaki Ai-Sei-En orphanage visit at Hirosaki, Japan, Dec. 8, 2018. The 35th Operations Group coordinates annually with the orphanage to provide food, games, presents and holiday cheer to the children. (U.S. Air Force photo by Branden Yamada)

A Hirosaki Ai-Sei-En chef, left, and U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cherylin Santos, a 35th Operations Group command support staff section chief, pounds mochi during a Hirosaki Ai-Sei-En orphanage visit at Hirosaki, Japan, Dec. 8, 2018. The 35th Operations Group coordinates annually with the orphanage to provide food, games, presents and holiday cheer to the children. (U.S. Air Force photo by Branden Yamada)

Steam escapes from a Japanese “kama” during a mochi pounding event for a Hirosaki Ai-Sei-En orphanage visit in Hirosaki, Japan, Dec. 8, 2018. The kama is a wooden mallet used to repeatedly land heavy blows to a hot bowl of cooked rice to create mochi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sadie Colbert)

Steam escapes from a Japanese “kama” during a mochi pounding event for a Hirosaki Ai-Sei-En orphanage visit in Hirosaki, Japan, Dec. 8, 2018. The kama is a wooden mallet used to repeatedly land heavy blows to a hot bowl of cooked rice to create mochi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sadie Colbert)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Taylor Hollister, the 35th Operations Group chief of intelligence, introduces himself to familiar faces, while holding his daughter, Ella, during a Hirosaki Ai-Sei-En orphanage visit, in Hirosaki, Japan, Dec. 8, 2018. Hollister speaks Japanese fluently and provided assistance in organizing the event through his skills and past experience in visiting the center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sadie Colbert)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Taylor Hollister, the 35th Operations Group chief of intelligence, introduces himself, while holding his daughter, Ella, during a Hirosaki Ai-Sei-En orphanage visit, in Hirosaki, Japan, Dec. 8, 2018. Hollister speaks Japanese fluently and provided assistance in organizing the event through his skills and past experience in visiting the center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sadie Colbert)

HIROSAKI, Japan --

With children and adults alike counting down the days to Christmas, Team Misawa service members and families visited with orphans living in Hirosaki, Japan, bringing community and holiday cheer, Dec. 8.

Members of the 35th Operations Group hosted the event, sharing the holiday spirit by giving presents and participating in various activities with the kids at the Hirosaki Ai-Sei-En Orphanage.

“I think it’s spectacular we have an opportunity to reach out as far as Hirosaki and share with our host nation,” said Lee Anne Moeller, wife of Lt. Col. Christopher Moeller, the 13th Fighter Squadron commander. “Both U.S. and Japanese kids had a blast playing with each other, providing another way to boost relations with our friends.”

 Misawa Airmen and families delivered games, activities and presents to the residents and provided an opportunity to intertwine the two cultures.

“The kids loved the cookie decorating event because this is the one and only time of the year they get to do it,” said Makito Kasae, a Hirosaki Ai-Sei-En Orphanage caretaker.

The 35th OG continued a 20-year tradition of working with the orphanage and gathered approximately $5,000 in donations to buy 40 kids gifts from their personal wish lists.

“For this event, we wanted the children to enjoy the holiday atmosphere and experience different cultures,” Kasae said. “Everyone was able to happily play together and participate in fun, competitive events; that’s what we want the most for the kids.”

Often, children become orphaned due to abusive homes, their parents' inability to provide for their medical needs or because there aren’t family members able to take care of them.

“Not only did we accomplish bringing a Christmas celebration to the Hirosaki Orphanage, we helped ensure the children felt noticed and loved during this holiday season,” Moeller affirmed. “Being there for them, I believe, is the most important part.”