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She says the colors drew her in, and it wasn’t long before one of the artists-in-residence was showing her how to make an origami crane.

“I found peace there,” said Young-Melnick. “I make cranes and send them all over to everyone I know. It helps me explore how I feel and helps me give back.”

The crane, according to Japanese tradition, is held in high regard for its lengthy lifespan of 1,000 years.

The process of folding 1,000 origami cranes is said to grant the maker a wish. The practice of folding cranes has gained popularity in the last century thanks to one young girl and her courageous spirit.

Sadako Sasaki was born in 1943 in Hiroshima, Japan. After surviving the atomic bombing when she was two years old, she developed leukemia. Throughout her illness she folded hundreds of cranes, remaining strong and positive the entire time. She passed away at age 12, but her memory has lived on in the cranes she made, each one carrying an intention of hope and healing.

A young Japanese patient and her family brought the tradition to Moffitt. When she was getting treatment, her family folded cranes as they waited. They explained the crane is a symbol of peace and healing in Japan and that tradition calls for folding 1,000 cranes for healing. The practice of folding “Healing Cranes” struck the Arts in Medicine team as a way of making hope visible and Moffitt began its own tradition of making and sharing wishes of healing words on the wings of the crane. The paper was painted by hand in the studio so each crane is as unique as the individual who receives it and the crane is hung where it can be seen 1,000 times. 

The cranes and the paper used to make them are the focus of a new art exhibit at Moffitt’s Healing Arts Gallery called Hope Takes Flight: 20 Years of Arts in Medicine. It celebrates the program’s 20th anniversary by showcasing how it has helped patients, family and staff find peace and hope in healing over the years.

The Healing Arts Gallery is located in the hallway outside of Radiation. If you would like to learn to fold your own Healing Crane, please visit the Arts in Medicine Open Studio on the third floor of the Moffitt Clinic Building or the first floor of the McKinley Outpatient Center.