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UMass honors breast cancer awareness month

n.cancerWith October being breast cancer awareness month, students and faculty of the University of Massachusetts gathered Oct. 15 to admire 1,000 colored cranes for the purpose of raising campus awareness.

Hanging from the ceiling of the Commonwealth College lounge in Goodell, there are 1,000 cranes created by the Commonwealth College Student Advisory Board. To provide a visual representation of the statistic that 1 in 8 women will have breast cancer in her lifetime, students folded every eighth crane out of pink paper in honor of the recognized color of breast cancer awareness.

Meredith Feltus, director of external programs for Commonwealth College, said the Student Advisory Board developed the idea of folding cranes around mid-September and added it was worth the effort.

Charlotte Anderson, a junior , and co-chair of the program committee for the Student Advisory Board, said approximately 30 students gathered on Sept. 24 for a night of crane-making.

“Over 400 cranes were made that night,” Anderson said.

According to Anderson, 1,000 cranes were finished by Oct. 5, with 100 having been made by Anderson herself.  The display officially went on display Monday Oct. 12.

“It’s really impressive to see what it really looks like to have 1,000 cranes,” Anderson said.

Timothy Alden, a senior at UMass and chair of the Student Advisory Board, said the idea of crane-making was proposed two weeks into September. It was not an easy idea he said, adding that the group did not want to proceed with the task of folding 1,000 paper cranes unless everyone involved was committed.

“We were able to make 1,000 cranes which was very exciting,” Alden said. “I think it looks great, better than I expected. It’s very eye-catching, which was the goal.”

“If people don’t notice, they won’t educate themselves,” Alden added.  “It’s one thing to be aware, it’s another to support the research”.

Both Anderson and Alden agree that breast cancer is a universal issue explaining that everyone knows someone who is affected by breast cancer. Alden said he hopes people will also take the precaution of learning to self-check for signs of cancer.

Anderson applauded the efforts of the students and faculty who took the time to make cranes, adding that in addition to the 400 made on Crane-Making Night, students took paper home to make cranes in their own time, so cranes were continuously “trickling in”.

Alden says he was impressed with both the generosity and the diversity of students who showed up for crane-making, adding that there were a lot of new and familiar faces.

“Students are looking for an outlet to give back,” he said. “This was an opportunity for them to do that.”

Anderson said that the cranes are symbolic. In Japanese culture, folding a thousand cranes is supposed to grant you a wish for luck or health.

“For breast cancer, we really feel it is not as recognized as it should be and we really want to raise our own support,” she said. “Especially on the 25th anniversary of holding a Breast Cancer Awareness month. It’s really impressive the amount of dedication shown to the project.”

Cory Pols, director of advising and student programs called the display “pretty darn neat.” She adds that she learned how to make a crane and have since made some cranes for other people, including one crane that she had made for a friend whom was recently diagnosed with Leukemia.

Scott Prosser, a senior and student peer advisor also helped fold cranes.

“We just threw them all in boxes once they were made and to have them come out looking like that is incredible,” he said.”

Prosser said that he and his crew of crane-makers knew it was worth the cause.  In addition, Prosser added that building a community is rewarding as it presents an opportunity to share stories of hope and survival and create support for those affected.

Mark Bennett, a freshman who happened to be in the lounge during the showing, said the display is “very moving.”

“It gets the word out and is a nice way of doing so,” he said.

He added that he believes breast cancer is coming closer to a cure, and hopes that cure comes within the next few years.

Josh Coschigano, a freshman, concluded, “It’s a creative way of raising awareness.”

Angela Hilsman can be reached at ahilsman@student.umass.edu

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