Izmir, Turkey --
Service members from the 425th Air Base Squadron and North Atlantic Treaty Organization, along with local national volunteers from the Izmir civilian community, reached out to a children’s hospital April 18 in Izmir, Türkiye.
The volunteers handed out toys varying from cars and trucks to dolls to more than 60 children who were being treated for a variety of different medical reasons in wards that included leukemia, pediatric surgery and the infectious diseases units.
“The visit was an uplifting occasion,” said Capt. Michelle Cazares, 425th Air Base Squadron director of operations. “A lot of people volunteered their time to get this important outreach program done. The visit was quite an occasion for the children as well as our community members. The support received from Team Izmir members for this project has been phenomenal and overwhelming.”
The community prepared for about a month for the outreach collecting more than 60 gift items that were delivered along with the donations made by the 425th ABS and NATO service members. Upon arrival at the children's hospital, visitors were greeted with smiling faces in the hospital wards as they interacted with their guests. When the children opened their gifts and saw the gifts presented by military members, there was an inexplicable expression on their faces.
“Thank you very much for all the support given to all the children. We look forward to future visits,” said Mustafa Varhan, Dr. Behçet Uz Children’s Hospital Child Foundation deputy director.
Many in attendance said they were moved by the importance of the outreach program, to be able to show the kids some caring love from the Izmir military and civilian community, and grateful to be part of such a rewarding experience.
“Our children are truly gifts from above and none deserve to endure the pain and suffering that sickness brings,” said Capt. Lamar Reece, 425th ABS installation chaplain. “As we walked in, the faces of the parents and children lit up. There seemed to be a renewed sense of strength and encouragement brought to the children and parents as we greeted them and handed out toys. They were happy that someone cared but even more joyful that Americans and Turkish took time out of their day to come and offer hope. They were joyful that we visited them, but really we were more humbled that they allowed us to come and share a moment in their lives, that was the real joy. To see these resilient children endure chemotherapy; yet never complain and still have smiles on their faces. They are truly gifts from above that can teach us about patience, endurance, love, and resiliency.”