The ancient Japanese tradition of SENBAZURU promises that a person who folds one thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish, such as long life, or recovery from illness or injury. It represents a form of healing and hope during challenging times.
I first met Barbara Parisi as fellow contributing artists at Bras for Life, a fundraising exhibition sponsored by the Marco Island Center for the Arts in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Participants were asked to decorate, create, or recreate bras for live auction, a portion of all sales went directly to the Marco Island chapter of the American Cancer Society. Barbara’s bra was stunningly beautiful, it was completely covered with tiny white origami birds made, I found out later, from a Braille copy of the New York Times.
“I made my entry in honor of my mother, a breast cancer survivor,” Barbara explained, “the paper was chosen because my mother, blind since age two, was an avid reader.”
Wanting to refresh her origami folding skills, Barbara searched the internet and it was there she discovered the intriguing world of CRANES FOR HOPE, a national community of individuals and groups, dedicated to the fight against cancer and it’s heartbreaking effects. According to Japanese tradition, cranes stand for good fortune and longevity due to their fabled life span of 1,000 years. It is believed that if you fold one crane for each year of its life, you may make a wish come true.
“I found communities of both adults and children engrossed in the practice of folding 1,000 cranes that are strung together and then forwarded on to hospital wards, hospices, and ailing individuals. The premise of CRANES FOR HOPE is that the effort and energy in the folding and stringing of the cranes will be translated into wishes of recovery and continued health. It becomes a symbol of hope and unity.”
The Marco Island project of 1,000 cranes started with Barbara and the Marco Islander Newcomers Club Sunshine Sisters. They were joined by friends and neighbors, including one young girl with a broken arm! Some folks folded cranes, others donated special papers, Dr. Bruce Kane helped design and construct the frame that would eventually “house” the birds. Six months later, 1000 CRANES FOR HOPE have been folded, threaded into 40 strands of 25 birds, and suspended as a mobile from two red bamboo frames. The flock is organized and suspended according to the spectrum.
This project also owes a debt of gratitude to Esther Gonzalez, Charlene Rana, Nancy Norman, and Brenda Griebahn and family, for their tireless efforts to see it to fruition. For my dime, no accomplishment is more precious than that attained through community effort. A testament to unity.
Fortunately for us, we can visit the awe-inspiring results at the Marco Island chapter of the American Cancer Society, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Loan Lam and Executive Director Melissa Felice. However, a trip to their office will reveal more than cranes; the facility offers support and assistance directly to Islanders living with cancer. You may even find a way you can help.
“We’re thrilled with this location,” Barbara said, “we grew very attached to our cranes and hope all the love invested in this project will translate into good wishes for the recipients.”
To learn more, the website, www.1000cranesforhope.com, is filled with beautiful photo gallery, you can also learn how to start your own flock – and join the fight against cancer.
The American Cancer Society is located at 583 Tallwood St., 239-642-8800.
Tara O’Neill, a lifelong artist, has been an area resident since 1967. She holds Bachelors Degrees in Fine Arts and English from the University of South Florida, and currently has a studio-gallery at the Artist Colony at the Esplanade on Marco Island. Contact her through www.taraogallery.com.