Looking around the room, I was filled with joy. To my right, my daughter Jessica, my dear friend Angela (also Class of 1993), and Laya, a Yale post-doctoral psychiatry fellow from Iran, practiced folding cranes. To my left, Kyle Higgins, organizer extraordinaire, who had been organizing this event for years – and with whom I have collaborated with for the past three years in her Yale Day of Service in Connecticut– organized the residents and the card-making supplies. We were holding our Yale Day of Service event once again at Chatham Place at Mary Wade in New Haven, just down the road from Yale. We held our event there last year and felt it had been a big success. Although it is a 5 to 6-hour round-trip drive from my home in New Jersey, I am happy to make the journey. 

I first learned about Kyle’s event in 2021, when I saw that it was a virtual event, advertised by the YAA as a card-making event. By coincidence, my teenage twins, Jessica and Justin, had started an initiative called Project End Loneliness. This was an endeavor that they started during the pandemic, inspired by their grandparents who lived in an independent living facility which was closed to outsiders, just as the vast majority of hospitals and senior living facilities across the world were. Their project had been largely influenced by their grandmother, my mother, who is an origami enthusiast. Their idea was to make handmade cards - adorned with origami cranes made by them, myself, and their grandmother, that were affixed to cards with messages of cheer inside - aimed at cheering up seniors, with their project later expanding to include children with disabilities. In addition to the cheerful message, the card messages offered to become pen pals with any interested residents.

Over the years, Project End Loneliness has distributed thousands and thousands of cards to nursing homes and to children with disabilities. It has been a truly meaningful project for all involved - we have all learned to make these wonderful paper creatures that represent so many positive things - care, love, well-wishes, happiness, and health. In return, we have received messages of gratitude and friendship, which have been so meaningful. Their project dovetailed perfectly with Kyle’s and we participated virtually in her Yale Day of Service in 2021.

The following year, we were fortunate to meet Kyle and other participants for the first time at an in-person event at the Artis Senior Living of Branford. Initially, we focused on making cards and distributing some already-made crane cards. However, some residents expressed interest in folding cranes; therefore, we spent the rest of our time attempting to create those winged creatures out of colorful paper with the residents. We all had a wonderful time and endeavored to continue participating in the card-making event in future Yale Day of Service events.

A few months ago, a physician friend of mine who had distributed some of our crane cards to her patients and children with disabilities - forwarded me an article, 1,000 Paper Cranes Can Bring Our Patients One Step Closer to Healing, written by Laya Jalilian-Khave, MD. Coincidentally, I learned that Laya is a post-doctoral fellow at Yale. Laya wrote a beautiful article about groups of people in Iran who made 1000 cranes for children’s hospitals to demonstrate their care and concern for these children. Folklore has it that when 1000 cranes are made, wishes can come true. Moved, I reached out to Laya, inviting her to our Day of Service event at Chatham Place at Mary Wade, a beautiful senior living facility in downtown New Haven. She responded immediately and warmly, committing herself to our event.

The event this year was once again a wonderful day full of laughter, smiles, cranes, and delicious cupcakes provided by Yale. It was remarked several times that certain nursing home residents had not initially wanted to participate but were cheerfully folding cranes by the end of the event. My participation in this event reminded me of the power of Yale - as my fellow Yale alumni and dear friend Angela and my daughter Jessica participated along with Laya, Kyle, other volunteers, and the staff from Chatham Place at Mary Wade. While I was sad to miss the Yale Service Day at my home club, the Yale Club of Northern New Jersey and Rockland County, where I am on the Board, I was happy to participate in this event a stone’s throw from Yale itself. It was also a good excuse to visit campus (and grab a slice of cake at Claire’s)! 

These events and affiliations remind me of the power and magnitude of Yale, using its gravitational forces to pull us all in. I am happy to continue my service to Yale and its affiliates for many more Yale Days of Service!