In the Japanese culture the crane is held in high regard, as it symbolizes health, long life, fidelity and hope. So, over time the legend that one could be granted a wish or offer a wish to others through the folding of 1,000 paper cranes developed. It was through the art of origami that one could find hope, as it was said those who have the patience to fold 1,000 cranes exhibited the values and traits of the crane and therefore were worthy of what they desired.
The legend gained fame in the 1950s in post-World War II Japan when a young girl named Sadako Sasaki, who had been exposed to the radiation of the atomic bombs dropped, was later diagnosed with leukemia. As she suffered, the story is told that she learned about the legend of the 1,000 paper cranes, and so she began folding them from her hospital bed.
Although Sasaki succumbed to the ravages of cancer and was not able to finish her task, others took it up. The story adds when she died all 1,000 cranes were buried with her. The idea of the 1,000 paper cranes spread, with those who opted to take on the task often using the opportunity to pass on the wish to help others, and that is what a group of present and former RVMS students opted to do.
The students in Ann Goche’s Homebase took on the task to meet the challenge of serving their community.
According to Brooke Fischer, Dru Frey and Easton Quast, three of the members of the Homebase, the students, who started the task a couple of months into the 2015-16 school year spent time during each Homebase period folding cranes, and just before the Christmas break of the current school year the final crane was folded.
As the group opted to take on the project they also started talking about where they wanted to send the cranes when they were done.
“We decided we wanted to do something with the military,” said Fischer, adding they also wanted to find some kind of local connection to make the project more special and to serve as inspiration as the challenge continued.
The students found that inspiration within the walls of their school in Jenn Otto, school social worker.
“We found out her brother was in the military,” said Quast.
Ryan Otto, who is originally from Canby enlisted in the U.S. Army soon after the 9/11 attacks, and he has now served his country for 14 years.
“When I started I did not plan to stay in this long,” said Otto.
However, as he served he discovered the military was a good fit, and now he has opted to make a career of service in the U.S. Army.
Otto has been deployed four times – his first was in Iraq, with the following three in Afghanistan. As a helicopter pilot, Otto has flown myriad missions during his career, and today he and his family are getting ready for his next mission. Otto will be stationed on a small Pacific Ocean island where he will spend at least the next two years.
According to Jenn Otto, the atoll where her brother and his family will be living is isolated and small – one mile at its widest and three miles at its longest.
While the students opted to give their 1,000 cranes to Otto, he is planning to pass them on to a school on a neighboring island.
Otto said until he began having conversations with the students he had never heard of the legend of the 1,000 paper cranes
He added the decision by the students to take on the task meant a lot to him, and the fact that they finished it was very impressive.
“For those of us in the military it is always nice to see kids involved in projects like this, especially if they are learning more about the U.S. military,” said Otto, adding just knowing the students are learning about the military in a time when globally it is not always portrayed in a positive light is a very good thing.
Quast, Frey and Fischer agreed it was nice to see the final crane finished, adding even though each crane may only take a few minutes to make 1,000 of them took a very long time.
When the 1,000 cranes from Redwood Falls are passed on by Otto to children living on an island in the Pacific Ocean the story of Sadako Sasaki, from another Pacific island, will have in some ways come full circle.
So, the legend will take on more meaning with a new story from RVMS offering inspiration to the next person or group who make the first fold and work to the last.