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Chaplain Helps Bring Thousands Of Paper Cranes, And Hope, To Minneapolis Hospital

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- An art display at a Twin Cities hospital is boosting spirits during difficult days.

It's a moving international effort that started with a single piece of paper.

As a pastor for 14 years in Tokyo, Kazuhiro Sekino started his studies to become a chaplain at Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis this past summer -- an entirely different assignment during a pandemic.

"First day when I step into the COVID room I feel so scary," Sekino said. "I wear respirator mask and gown and gloves, and I visit COVID patients every day. This kind of human contact makes me encouraged there's no fear anymore."

Sekino looked for a way to comfort one particular COVID patient through the constraints of his PPE.

"I was wondering how can I deliver my heart to him," Sekino said. "As I handed [the crane] to him, he … started crying because he had no visitors at all."

According to Japanese tradition, folding 1,000 paper cranes gives a person the chance to make a special wish come true. Sekino posted a video to YouTube with the hope of fulfilling that request. Cranes have been coming ever since.

Paper Cranes At Abbot Northwestern Hospital
(credit: CBS)

"We can deliver hope to patient and … medical workers, too," he said.

Sixteen-thousand cranes now hang from the atrium at Abbott, all from people in Japan who hoped to lift the spirits of American patients and healthcare workers.

Amber Volk is a genetic counselor at Abbott who has also been forced to see her patients differently, and keep her distance from colleagues.

"Being able to walk into this area and see that in a physical way, I think a lot of people had a real reaction to this," Volk said.

A symbol of peace, and a palpable reminder of the flight we're on together.

"It displays the hope which we need today. We can create one hope in an ultimate way," Volk said.

More than 1,000 people folded those cranes in Japan. Patients and workers at Abbot then worked to open up their wings and hang the display. All patients are also given one as a gift now as they are discharged from the hospital.

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