Ashinaga has announced its participation in the 2012 Honda L.A. Marathon with high school and college students from the Tohoku region devastated by the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2011.

High school students Daichi Sato and Nozomi Uchimura, both 18, of Miyagi Prefecture, who both lost their fathers to the catastrophe, and 14 high school and college athletes selected by the Japan Association of Athletics Federations from Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures will run the biggest international marathon on the West Coast as part of efforts to appeal for support for Tohoku Rainbow House, which Ashinaga is planning to construct in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, as well as four satellite facilities along the coast hit by the tsunami.

These facilities will provide emotional and psychological care to children who lost parents or guardians, or whose parent/guardian sustained a severe disability, in connection with the disaster.

At various events during their stay in Los Angeles, Sato and Uchimura are talking about their tsunami experiences and hope for the future, and expressing their gratitude to American citizens for helping people affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

Sato will also run the 2012 L.A. Big 5K, the official warm-up race for the 2012 Honda L.A. Marathon, with the high school athletes from the Tohoku region.

Ashinaga is now working to raise 3.5 billion yen ($45 million) for the Tohoku Rainbow House and four satellite facilities, and hopes to complete them in 2014. In 2011, Ashinaga conducted successful fundraising campaigns in New York (June), Dalian, China (September), and Paris (December). In spite of large numbers of donations from both Japan and overseas, the project still requires another 1.8 billion yen ($23 million).

Ashinaga is an education-focused non-profit organization based in Tokyo that for over 40 years has been providing financial and psychological support to children who have lost parents or guardians due to various causes. To date, it has helped some 85,000 students, and its work has been supported by cumulative donations of 90 billion yen ($1.15 billion) from all over the world.

One of Ashinaga’s current major focuses is assistance for children who lost parents or guardians in the earthquake and tsunami. The organization is providing emergency relief grants in the amount of 2 million yen ($25,600) per surviving child; children range from infants to graduate school students. As of Feb. 27, 2,016 children had received the grants totaling 4 billion yen ($50 million).

Ashinaga’s itinerary in Los Angeles included visits to the Japanese American National Museum on Tuesday, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center and Crenshaw High School on Thursday, and Dodger Stadium and the “Clay and Petals” exhibit at JACCC on Friday.

The L.A. Big 5K will be held Saturday at 8 a.m. and the full marathon on Sunday at 5:30 a.m. Both events start at Dodger Stadium. The marathon will finish in Santa Monica.

The events are organized by Ashinaga in cooperation with, and under the sponsorship of, the Japan Association of Athletics Federations, the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles, Korean Air, ANA, Miyako Hotel Los Angeles, asics, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California, Los Angeles Dodgers, Japan America Society of Southern California, Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, Japan Foundation, JACCC, and many other organizations.

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