November 26, 2014

Medina
Cloudy
34°F

Middle schoolers make cranes to support cancer research

Hannah Hasan, 11, right, helps Olivia Varabkanich, 11, finish making a paper crane Monday in Mark Steinmetz’s sixth-grade science class at Edwards Middle School. (Photo by Allison Wood, The Gazette.)

Hannah Hasan, 11, right, helps Olivia Varabkanich, 11, finish making a paper crane Monday in Mark Steinmetz’s sixth-grade science class at Edwards Middle School. (Photo by Allison Wood, The Gazette.)

BRUNSWICK — Diagnosed with the same rare form of leukemia, 3-year-old Kyle Stewart and 5-year-old Lydia Miyashita became friends while undergoing chemotherapy treatments at Akron Children’s Hospital last year.

Lydia died in February, and her family and friends are trying to increase awareness and funding for pediatric cancer research by making 1 million paper cranes to send to Washington.

Since they can’t do it alone, eighth-grader Miranda Zoloti, who is Kyle’s cousin, enlisted the help of fellow students at Edwards Middle School.

Eighth-grader Miranda Zoloti speaks about Lydia Miyashita, 5, who died of leukemia earlier this year, during an assembly Monday. She was friends with Zoloti’s cousin, Kyle Stewart, 3. (Photo by Allison Wood, The Gazette.)

Eighth-grader Miranda Zoloti speaks about Lydia Miyashita, 5, who died of leukemia earlier this year, during an assembly Monday. She was friends with Zoloti’s cousin, Kyle Stewart, 3. (Photo by Allison Wood, The Gazette.)

During an assembly Monday, she said making the paper cranes would honor the memory of Lydia and any other child diagnosed with cancer as part of Lydia’s Cancer Hope.

“They started a friendship that will not be forgotten,” Miranda said about Kyle and Lydia. “It’s your chance to recognize or honor anyone with pediatric cancer.”

Since there are about 500 students at Edwards Middle School, they could make 1,000 cranes if everyone made two.

Miranda said she sold about 200 green “kisses for Kyle” bracelets last year that raised about $500 for his family.

Since Kyle’s diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia in May 2008, he and Miranda have become “best friends,” but there are no more treatment options available for him after recently receiving a bone marrow transplant.

Lydia’s mother, Monica Miyashita, also spoke Monday and said she remembered seeing cranes feeding on the Peace River in Punta Gorda, Fla., during the last month of Lydia’s life.

She said she was reminded of the story of Sadako, a Japanese girl who died of leukemia after the bombing of Hiroshima and who tried and failed to make 1,000 paper cranes before her death. The cranes are considered a symbol of hope.

After her death, Sadako’s friends finished making the cranes and eventually inspired the construction of a peace memorial in Hiroshima.

When Miyashita’s family returned to their hometown of Orrville, students at St. Mary’s School in Wooster where Lydia attended gave them 1,000 paper cranes they had made.

The cranes are on display at Akron Children’s Hospital in September, which is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month.

Miyashita said about 30,000 cranes have been folded so far by schools, church groups and other organizations and she has heard about several more events at school.

“A thousand times a thousand is a million,” she said. “It didn’t seem too insurmountable.”

Lydia’s Cancer Hope, which Miyashita started, also raises money to purchase items for care packages for child cancer patients and their families and accepts donations of items like crafts and toys. Miyashita said they are in need of boys’ toys such as cars and blocks because the organization seems to get more items tailored for girls.

After the assembly, the students spent the next class period learning how to properly fold the cranes, which was not always easy.

In Mark Steinmetz’s sixth-grade science class, learning how to fold the paper correctly and in the right order was a challenge for everyone. To help, they used an origami Web site that was projected onto the classroom’s Smartboard.

The first time around, they missed an important step and had to start over. After the second time, several of the students were appointed as “crane masters” to help other students after they were able to finish a crane by themselves.

Rachel Miles, 11, said she had done origami before and found there was an easier way to fold cranes than the one on the Web site.

For information about Lydia’s Cancer Hope, go to the organization’s Web site at www.lydiascancerhope.com. To learn how to make a paper crane, go to www.origami.org.uk.

Contact Allison Wood at (330) 721-4050 or allisonwood@ohio.net.