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Erik Sonntag and his mother, Cindy, pack cards with origami cranes to send to Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Monday. The cranes are an ancient Japanese legend the Japanese normally associated with helping injured or sick people.
Erik Sonntag and his mother, Cindy, pack cards with origami cranes to send to Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Monday. The cranes are an ancient Japanese legend the Japanese normally associated with helping injured or sick people. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)
Erik Sonntag and his mother, Cindy, pack cards with origami cranes to send to Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Monday. The cranes are an ancient Japanese legend the Japanese normally associated with helping injured or sick people.
Erik Sonntag and his mother, Cindy, pack cards with origami cranes to send to Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Monday. The cranes are an ancient Japanese legend the Japanese normally associated with helping injured or sick people. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)
A Senbazuru - a chain of 1000 origami cranes held by strings - sits in a box packed by Erik Sonntag and his mother, Cindy.
A Senbazuru - a chain of 1000 origami cranes held by strings - sits in a box packed by Erik Sonntag and his mother, Cindy. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

A Japanese legend says that whoever folds a thousand paper cranes will be granted a single wish.

For Erik Sonntag, that wish is for the wounded servicemembers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

This New Year’s, troops at the Washington, D.C., hospital will be getting a box containing a Senbazuru — one thousand paper cranes held together by string. Erik hopes the effort will let servicemembers know they are in people’s thoughts during the holiday season.

Erik, an Eagle Scout and student at the American School in Japan, said the idea came about when a fellow member of his swim team had a family member at Walter Reed.

He thought it would be a great Eagle Scout project. But the scouting committee turned down the idea.

That didn’t deter the 17-year-old.

Enlisting the help of friends, Tokyo-area children and church members, Erik was able to complete the Senbazuru. It was no easy feat, as each crane takes 21 steps to fold, Erik said.

He estimates that more than 300 hours were spent making the cranes.

For Erik, this was a way to help his old homestead with a tradition from his new one. His family moved from Maryland around a year ago after his father, David Sonntag, was stationed in Tokyo. Erik estimates that his family put together around 300 of the origami cranes.

Erik said he hopes “will lift their spirit and give them hope.”

Along with the cranes, more than 1,000 cards from area children were sent. Some of the notecards read “Get well soon,” or “Surf’s up.”

One teacher liked the idea so much, she put her first-grade students to work folding colored paper into beautiful birds. One of those pupils happened to be Erik’s younger brother, Jonah, who had already made more than a few at the Sonntag home. Jonah said he didn’t mind.

Apparently, making America’s troops feel appreciated runs in the family. After all, Erik said, “It’s always nice to know someone is thinking about you.”

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