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Japanese legend inspires action, hope

Third grade students fold 1,000 paper cranes for world peace

One thousand beautifully colored origami paper cranes will be mailed this spring to Hiroshima, Japan. Moses DeWitt third grade students have been folding them since the start of the school year as part of an art project directed by art teacher Pat Belodoff. Their motive? To make a wish for world peace.

A Japanese legend, revealed in a book introduced by school librarian Cynthia Grannell, tells the story of a young Japanese girl named Sadako Sasaki.

Sasaki was 2 years old when the atomic bomb was dropped about one mile away from her home in Hiroshima. Ten years later, while in the hospital after being diagnosed with leukemia -- which her mother referred to as an "atom bomb disease" -- she began to fold cranes. Her inspiration was spurred on by the Japanese saying that one who folds a thousand cranes is granted a wish. Sasaki's wish was for world peace.

"After becoming aware of Sadako's wish, we decided to try to fold 1,000 cranes and send them to Hiroshima," Beladoff said.

Their efforts are laudable. Three months later the children reached their goal, folding cranes during free time at school and at home.

"At the end of each school day, I would receive a basket full of cranes the children had made," Beladoff said. "We counted the cranes during lunch recess, stringing them in lengths of fifty."

The cranes will be sent to Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, who continually receives paper cranes from children all over the world in hopes for peace. The cranes are placed at the foot of a statue that was built in 1958 to memorialize Sasaki and all children who died from the effects of the atomic bomb.

The statue, which depicts the Japanese heroine holding a golden crane, stands in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, also known as Genbaku Dome. A plaque at the foot of the statue reads, "This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world."

To obtain a copy of "Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes" by Eleanor Coerr, visit your local library or bookseller.

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