Moscow student enlists help to make 100,000 paper cranes
JASPER LAFORTUNE ASKS FOR COMMUNITY SUPPORT FOR THE TERMINALLY ILL
By Holly Bowen Daily News staff writer | Posted: Thursday, September 22, 2011 12:00 am
The kindness extended to Jasper LaFortune’s family during his father’s battle with brain cancer has inspired the Moscow High School senior to pay it forward.
LaFortune has created Wish Cranes, a service organization that will collect origami paper cranes to send to terminally ill people, in the hopes that the remainder of their lives will be brightened by the gesture.
His father, Jim, was diagnosed with brain cancer in fall 2009 and was told he had only six more months to live. But the Moscow Junior High School science teacher survived until the morning of Nov. 12, 2010, when he died at the age of 51.
LaFortune said a July 2010 gift from a group of complete strangers was one of the highlights of his father’s final months. A class of elementary school students in Colorado folded and mailed a set of 1,000 paper cranes that arrived in a box on the family’s doorstep.
“It was really remarkable for his healing,” he said. “It made the rest of his life really worth living.”
LaFortune said he wants to share that kindness and generosity with the rest of the world.
He is calling on students and teachers in the Moscow School District, in addition to community members in general, to fold a total of 100,000 paper cranes to be given to 100 terminally ill individuals.
During a lunchtime meeting with a couple dozen classmates on Wednesday, LaFortune explained that paper cranes symbolize peace and healing, and he shared the story of a Japanese girl named Sadako Sasaki.
Sasaki was 2 years old when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on her hometown of Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945. She was diagnosed with leukemia 10 years later.
While in the hospital, one of Sasaki’s friends relayed to her a legend that she would be granted a wish in exchange for folding 1,000 origami paper cranes. The sick 12-year-old set out to do just that but died after folding 644 cranes, LaFortune said. Her classmates folded the remainder of her cranes, which were buried with her.
LaFortune said he initially wanted to ask classrooms of students to fold sets of cranes, and some teachers have already started to lead their students in the project. But in addition to that, he plans to place crane collection boxes throughout MHS so any student, teacher or visitor can drop off their creations as they’re finished.
“I’ve already had people just walk up and hand me cranes,” he said.
He asked students at the meeting on Wednesday to begin folding cranes during their spare time at school so their classmates take notice and possibly join the effort.
He ran out of time at lunch when demonstrating how to fold a crane, but he said instructions are as simple as turning on a computer.
“If you know what the Internet is, you should have no problem folding cranes,” he said.
He said he is planning to schedule a “crane-a-thon” event where multiple people fold cranes at once, and he’s going to visit other schools in Moscow to encourage students and teachers to participate.
LaFortune said students are welcome to suggest eventual recipients of the paper cranes, and he’s open to any other ideas they may have when it comes to encouraging other students to participate.
“If you know someone who has a terminal illness and you want to fold them 1,000 cranes, here’s your chance to do it,” he said.
He said Wish Cranes will tie into his extended learning internship project about service organizations, but he hopes students in future years will let him “pass on the torch” so the crane-folding gesture continues even after he’s graduated.
Holly Bowen can be reached at (208) 882-5561, ext. 239, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @DailyNewsHolly