It was a long, hard road to recovery for Ojai Valley School junior Winnie Chang, who was forced to miss several weeks of school after suffering a serious head injury during basketball practice late into the winter season.
But reentry to the OVS community was made easier with the help of her friends, who worked well into the morning, several days in a row, to fold 1,000 colorful paper cranes and string them together in her dorm room to welcome her back to school.
“Winnie loved it so much!” said junior Evelyn Brokering, who led the welcome home project, which derives from a tradition from Japan where she lived most of her life. “I think we did a good job.”
The original story of the origami crane comes through the sad, but inspiring story of a young Japanese girl name Sadako Sasaki. Sadako was born in 1943 in Hiroshima, Japan, and was just 2 years old when the atom bomb was dropped on her hometown.
At age 12 she developed leukemia and was given a year to live.
While in the hospital, her roommate taught her how to fold origami cranes and the legend of how it would grant her a wish if she folded 1,000. She folded 644 before she died.
This tradition is not new to sophomore Nanako Tatewaki who learned to make origami cranes in elementary school in her native Japan.
“I made [origami cranes] at my old school too” she said “We make it for people who are injured.”
It wasn’t just the Japanese students who joined together to spread this gift of kindness and love. Students from all backgrounds put in hard work to finish all 1,000 paper cranes.
At one point, the girls’ dorm at the Upper Campus hosted a crane folding party, with dozens of students joining to prepare the surprise by the time Winnie returned to school in late February.
“I thought it was really interesting,” said Evelyn. “OVS has people from all around the world and it was so fun to learn all together. Over half the school folded at least one, and some people even showed their parents how to [fold origami].”
The kindness of the students who worked together to welcome back their friend was touching to many, including dorm parent Tami Scott.
“The heart that went into making so many cranes was such a wonderful experience for those making them and for Winnie,” she said. “This act of kindness showed the true spirit of our family ‘on the hill!’ ”Share