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Paper cranes hung from library ceiling raise awareness about breast cancer

Over 1,000 brightly colored paper cranes are suspended from the ceiling of the first floor of the W.E.B Du Bois library in rows of eight – 125 of them are pink.

Maria Uminski/Collegian

Maria Uminski/Collegian

The pink cranes represent the one in every eight women who develop breast cancer at some point in their life and are the culmination of a project orchestrated by Commonwealth Honors College.

To commemorate October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Alesia Brennan, the graduate assistant of student programs for the Commonwealth Honors College, launched the paper crane event with several other students from the honors college to reflect upon those who have been directly and indirectly affected by the disease.

Paper cranes were chosen because of an old Japanese legend. According to the Japanese tradition of origami, the paper crane symbolizes health and peace. In Japanese culture, whoever folds 1,000 paper cranes is granted a wish for a person to recover from a very serious illness, such as breast cancer.

In the past few years, the cranes – which were all hand folded in previously by students in the honors college – had been hanged in the Honors College Lounge, where they were only seen by a select few. According to Brennan, while it would have been easier to keep the cranes where they were, she wanted to make the cranes and the honors college more visible to the rest of campus.

Melissa Woglom, associate director of the college’s student programs, shared Brennan’s wish for greater visibility. The subject has hit home for Brennan, as her mother passed away of breast cancer in July 2010.

“I was definitely excited,” said Brennan. “Obviously that holds a really important place in my heart.”

It was important to both Woglom and Brennan to position these cranes in a place where they will be seen by the UMass students, and also to give the Commonwealth Honors College a voice.

The library was Woglom’s first choice when relocating the cranes because, as she and Brennan said, it has the highest traffic flow of students and faculty.

Once the location was decided, Madeleine Charney, chair of the library’s arts and exhibits committee, was contacted to finalize the placement of the cranes in the library. Collaboratively, Charney, Woglom, Brennan and honors students Christine Markus, Lily Hicks and Ashley Veasy helped  to hang the pre-folded cranes of previous years.

According to Brennan, she was thankful to have inherited the project with the cranes pre-folded on strings and ready to be hanged. Brennan said that if the cranes had not been pre-made, she would have had no idea where to even start in the origami paper crane folding project.

“It’s really nice to stop for a minute and devote this month to making breast cancer known,” added Brennan.

A reception for the cranes will take place  next Tuesday from 2 to 4 p.m. in the circulation office of the library where apple cider and donuts from Atkins Farms will be served.

Brittney Figueira can be reached at bfigueir@student.umass.edu.

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