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Young girl gives hope to cancer patients through origami

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Niasha Oden

An 11-year-old Girl Scout with the dexterity of a magician is putting smiles on the faces of current and former patients at the Tuality/OHSU Cancer Center.

Niasha Oden is using the ancient Japanese art of folding origami paper cranes to provide hope for cancer patients. According to Japanese legend, anyone who receives 1,000 origami cranes will be granted a wish, a long life, or recovery from illness or injury.

Niasha has taken on the crane project to honor her mother and to pay tribute to her late grandmother. Her mother, Trisha Schroeder Oden, is a cancer survivor. She told Niasha that while her grandmother was being treated for breast cancer, she was collecting cranes, but died before she was able to collect 1,000. Niasha decided to help current cancer patients collect cranes so their wishes would be granted. “I just want everyone to have a lot of hope in their lives,” Niasha said.

Niasha has already soared past the 1,000-crane mark. According to her Facebook page, she is at 4,700 cranes and counting. Her goal is to create 6,000 origami cranes by January.

On a recent visit to the Cancer Champions Support Group, which meets twice a month at the Tuality/OHSU Cancer Center, Niasha dropped off a basket full of colorful folded cranes. All have messages printed on them – Angels Watching, Look to the Sky, Shine on You’re a Star – and the like. She also dropped off a basket of cranes at Tuality’s Hematology and Oncology Department.

Niasha said she learned how to make the cranes after hearing of the plight of Japanese citizens following the devastating tsunami of 2011. Niasha estimates she can fold a small origami crane in two minutes; a medium sized one takes three minutes.

Trisha Oden blushed when asked about her daughter. She reminds everyone that Niasha is only 11. “You have to realize there are many other things she could be doing, yet she spends all of her spare time on this project,” Theresa said.

Jan Skaflestad, one of the support group members, said it warms her heart that a child so young could be so involved in giving back to the cancer community. “It makes me want to cry,” she said.

A visit to Niasha’s Cranes of Hope Facebook page reveals a site full of uplifting statements, photos, even a video showing you how to fold an origami crane. It also contains the following statement from Niasha:

"Cranes of Hope is all about spreading Hope, Love, and Smiles, one crane at a time. 1,000 cranes = HOPE for healing from cancer. From my ♥ to yours."


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