Hesperia students know when to fold ’em
Danielle Staton (“Ms. D”), General Ed instructor for SJVC’s Hesperia campus told her students about Ashley, a 12-year old girl she had read about online who had cancer when she was five, and now it had resurfaced. Ashley recently had surgery for thyroid cancer and is unable to undergo chemotherapy treatments because she had also endured a heart transplant a short time before.
“Besides dealing with cancer and the effects of surgeries, kids at school pick on Ashley because of her walking condition caused by long ago radiation treatments that led to a broken hip socket,” says Danielle.
Ashley’s mother, sister and grandfather had all succumbed to cancer during her young life.
As the CAMA class talked about what they might do to help, Danielle mentioned a Japanese legend that promises a wish granted to one who receives a thousand origami cranes. “I merely suggested the idea, and they ran with it,” says Danielle. They wanted to assemble a thousand origami ‘Hearts for Hope’ for Ashley to have her heart’s desire.
Beginning Oct. 1st, these original 42 students took this idea to their churches, to their children’s schools, to family and friends. “They created this epidemic to help someone, and it exploded,” says Danielle.
Suddenly, it was campus-wide. “A pink table was set up in the lobby for everyone to see as they walked in, and students could stop and fold hearts right there,” says Danielle, who counted the hearts every day when she got to school. The initial goal of 1,000 hearts was surpassed in the first week. CAMA student Samantha Buckley took materials to her son’s 6th grade class and brought back 500 colored-paper hearts. SJVC students diligently folded hearts during lectures, lunch breaks and before and after school.
Origami hearts started carrying messages of hope and encouragement for Ashley to read. Poems, quotes, words of inspiration made their way into the little creases of paper. Criminal Justice cadet Noe Hernandez wrote his first-ever poem for Ashley in hopes it might bring some joy into her life. “He wrote a poem that would make you cry,” says Danielle.
“It was so heart-touching that so many really wanted to be a part of this,” says Danielle. “Stories were coming out about cancer in their families and sharing stories brought us closer together as a family at SJVC.”
The deadline for the origami hearts was October 20. Exactly 1,663 hearts had been ever so lovingly made.
Thirteen students, Danielle and Dean of Student Services, Christie Johnson were ready to make the 40-minute drive to deliver their precious cargo to Ashley, who was in her 6th grade class at Jurupa Vista Elementary School in Fontana. Ashley was out of the hospital and trying to maintain as normal a routine as possible. She had no idea that a paper wave of love was coming her way.
Everyone met in the school cafeteria. Ashley was wide-eyed and, when she realized that those hearts in a basket were all for her, she could not stop smiling. “I can’t believe you did this; you did all of this yourself,” Ashley exclaimed. “She has got to be the most humble kid I’ve ever met in my whole life,” says Danielle.
Ashley sat up front on stage with Danielle and the SJVC group. While a slide show was being set up Danielle wanted to draw other students in to what was happening. “What makes you strong?” she asked them. “Muscles aren’t the only things that make you strong, and sometimes you can’t tell a person is strong just by looking at them.” Someone yells out, “Bravery!”
None of the students knew that Ashley had been fighting cancer. There was a prolonged “Ohhhhhh” when they realized the reason for her physical differences. “I don’t think they will make fun of her anymore,” muses Danielle.
“A couple of SJVC students stood up and told the audience how important Ashley’s story was to them and how it helped them build their own strength and their passion for being in the medical field,” says Danielle. “This experience was completely life-changing for me and my students – probably everyone involved at my campus.”
Ashley’s dad sent Danielle Ashley’s phone number so that those involved in this amazing effort can text her occasionally. Ashley is excited to have more friends.
Danielle says that when she and Ashley talked soon after that magical day, Ashley had already read most of the hearts. “I told her that 1,663 hearts means that she get a wish and a half.”
Donations for Ashley’s Top Ten Wishes can be made at www.gofundme.com/Hearts4Hope.