Japan may still be dealing with the devastation and destruction from the last month’s earthquake and tsunami, but a group of Surprise eighth-graders are undertaking a project they hope will lift the spirits of the grief-stricken nation.

The students were inspired by a story about a young Japanese girl who developed radiation poisoning in 1945 after the United States bombed Hiroshima and vowed to construct 1,000 paper cranes to overcome her illness struck a chord with the students.

Imagine Prep student Nicholas Bell was constructing several origami paper cranes one day, when classmate Hannah Raby noticed the unique art form and remembered the story of Sadako Sasaki, who died when she was about to reach the 700 paper crane mark.

Together with Nick Van Doren and Noah Seiler, the two Imagine Prep students came up with an idea to follow through on Sasaki’s mission, but this time to benefit the Japanese earthquake and tsunami victims. Rather than sending monetary donations, the eighth-graders are hoping the colorful paper cranes will hold special significance and can raise the spirits of a nation dealing with grief.

“We’re told the cranes mean peace, long life and happiness,” Raby said. “We hope this is something they can appreciate.”

The project of goodwill has struck a nerve with other Imagine Prep students. Many of the students saw the devastation Japan sustained over the past few weeks on television and decided they could help after discussing the matter in class.

While Raby, Bell, Van Doren and Seiler have created most of the colorful origami paper cranes, sign up sheets are chock full of students’ names who want to participate in creating them. Paper has been donated by teachers and students, and the four eighth-graders leading the effort have also contributed to the three-week-old project. Last week, the students finished making their 1,000th paper crane.

The four eighth graders plan to send the paper cranes — 40 paper cranes will be placed on 25 pieces of fishing line, totaling 1,000 — to Japan in the coming days and weeks, but they first must decide where to send them. Their teacher, Maddy Davis, said the ideal locations would be the volatile nuclear reactor sites, schools or government buildings.

In addition, Davis said several Imagine Prep teachers are collecting socks and chocolates to send in packages along with another supply of paper cranes. Raby, Bell, Van Doren and Seiler are making an additional 1,000 cranes to donate to their school.

“It just goes to show what a dedicated group of students can accomplish,” Davis said. “The students wanted the victims to know that they’re thinking of them.”

Zach Colick can be reached at 623-876-2522 or zcolick@yourwestvalley.com.

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