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Westport Students Create Cranes of Hope for Japan

Staples High School sophomore Anya Kostenko is on a mission to help the people of Japan, one paper crane at a time.

After the March earthquake and tsunami devastated parts of that country, Anya, 15, knew she wanted to do something to help but didn't know what. Then, she remembered a book she read as a child called, "Sadako and a Thousand Paper Cranes," a nonfiction story about a girl who survived the bombing of Hiroshima but later died from the radiation.

"When Sadako was in the hospital, she was told about the Japanese proverb that says, 'He who folds a thousand paper cranes will be a granted a wish,''' Anya said. "But she died before she could make 1,000, completing 644."

According to the story, Sadako's friends completed the rest of the cranes and brought them to her grave. True story inspired Anya and 13 of her friends to create more than 1,000 origami cranes. This project is aptly called "The Sadako Project."

"I've always wanted to do something for charity, but I didn't want to do a bake sale — I wanted to do something that had a deeper meaning to it," Anya said. "With the recent tsunami, the nuclear power plants have become flooded, and the people working to repair them have been exposed to radiation, like Sadako. That's when the idea hit me to re-enact the 1,000 cranes."

On Saturday, Anya and her friends are showcasing the paper cranes they created at Toquet Hall Teen Center from 7 to 10 p.m. in a benefit exhibit. The event will feature performances by local musicians, photos documenting the crane-making process and a slideshow presentation about the earthquake and tsunami.

There's a $5 donation fee, and all proceeds will go to the Save the Children's Japan Relief Fund. The donation fee for seniors and children 10 and younger is $3. Everyone who attends the benefit will receive a crane as a token of appreciation, Anya said. "It would be really nice for the people of Westport to come down and support this, even if it just for five minutes."

Photo identification: From left: Josh Reedy, Anya Kostenko, Francesca Lam, Jenna Ellis, Amanda Giannitti, Sydney Schmerzeler, Sarah Levenson and Nina Chasnow. Students who are part of the project but not pictured include: Mie Higuchi, Luke Paschal, Kirsten Flicker, Julia Onorato, Ashley Hyun and Anastasia Kulikova.

Do you know a student or group of students making a difference? We'd love to hear about them! Email reporter Vanessa Inzitari with the name and story of an amazing student or group you know about.

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