Western community folds paper cranes in support of restaurant workers

CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University students sold nearly 1,000 paper cranes to benefit the victims of a mid-November shooting at an off-campus restaurant, raising more than $1,700 and inspiring additional pledges of $1,325.

Now, in addition to the ongoing sale of 500 more origami birds, organizers are asking community members from on and off campus to join them in folding the symbols of peace and love.

Masafumi Takeda, coordinator of the Asian Studies Program at Western, invites residents to fold a paper crane, sign or write a message on it and then mail the crane to him. The origami birds will be used to create a display that demonstrates the broad community commitment to peace.

Signed origami birds also will be presented to the China Dragon restaurant, where three employees, including owner Qi Lin, were injured during the robbery.

“The goal is for the Lin family to feel safe and comfortable,” Takeda said.

A member of Western’s Kendo club, Shane O’hUid, who is an exchange student from Ireland, suggested the origami project after hearing a presentation about paper cranes.

Takeda said the story goes that a young Japanese girl developed leukemia after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and decided to fold 1,000 paper cranes to make a wish of living longer come true. Though she did not complete her mission, the practice of folding 1,000 paper cranes came to symbolize world peace and love, he said.

Inspired by the story, initial volunteers from Western’s Kendo and Japanese clubs folded 1,000 paper cranes.

“The project has grown much bigger than I ever anticipated,” said O’hUid, who used his surf board bag to transport the hundreds of origami birds to campus.

The flock has birds made from a range of papers and in all sizes – even small enough for volunteer Renee Komodowski, a senior entrepreneurship major from Asheville, to use as earrings.

Jackson County Sheriff Jimmy Ashe commended the students’ efforts and said the Lin family needs support.

Selling cranes are Western Carolina University students (from left to right) Drew Pate, Renee Komodowski and Shane O'hUid.

Selling cranes are Western Carolina University students (from left to right) Drew Pate, Renee Komodowski and Shane O’hUid.

The family must shoulder significant medical bills at a time when they lack insurance and the business is closed, Ashe said.

“They need to know they are welcome back into our community,” said Ashe, who helped establish a tax-deductible account in the Lin family’s name at the Macon Bank in Sylva.

Several medical providers have volunteered to help them now that they have been released from inpatient hospital care.

“This is a quiet, peaceful community,” Ashe said. “When something as tragic as this takes places, it makes an impact on all of us.”

Instructions for how to fold a paper crane are available at www.sadako.com/howtofold.html (link no longer active).

Paper cranes folded to support the Lin family should be mailed to Masafumi Takeda, Room 118 McKee, Modern Foreign Languages, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, N.C., 28723.

For more information, contact Masafumi Takeda, Asian studies coordinator, at (828) 227-3905 or e-mail mtakeda@email.wcu.edu.