Luis Merino's friends fold paper cranes at his family's home in Bellflower, less than a week after his father died. By getting sponsors for the cranes, Luis' classmaters are raising funds to pay for Samuel Merino's funeral expenses.
Folded with precision and created with purpose, hundreds of paper cranes have been made by Luis Merino's classmates.
The multi-colored origami birds have become beacons of hope for Luis, whose father died on Sunday.
The cranes are more than that too: They're helping Luis' struggling family financially.
Like countless of other youngsters who've read the book, Luis' fellow students at Craig Williams Elementary School in Lakewood were inspired by "Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes."
In the 1977 children's book, a little girl who lives in Japan during World War II believes a sick person who folds 1,000 cranes would be granted a miracle and become healthy.
In class, the story of the little girl from Hiroshima succumbing to disease mirrored the story of Luis' father Samuel, pictured at left, who died at age 53 of liver cancer.
Luis' teacher, Monte Weiss, said the cranes became part of a broader project to help Luis' family of six, which cannot afford the $7,000 needed for his funeral arrangements.
"As we were thinking about hanging those cranes in our classroom, and almost dedicating the year to his father’s memory -- that's when it slowly snowballed into the idea: We can get people to sponsor the folding of our cranes and help the family with the funeral,” Weiss said.
Luis said the cranes have been symbolic for him.
"They mean good luck, and that something good is going to happen to my family," said Luis, pictured at right at his family's modest home in Bellflower.
On a fundraiser page for the Merino family, Weiss described the situation: "The family is unable to pay for the funeral services and associated costs, and so my brilliant, generous, and compassionate sixth graders have organized a fundraiser for the family."
They're planning to fold 1,000 paper cranes that will hang in the classroom all year, and they're asking for sponsors for each crane.
"We are asking that anyone who can, sponsor the folding of a crane with a donation of any size, $1, $5, $10, $20, or more," Weiss wrote. "Please consider helping the family of our classmate and friend."
To help the Merino family, go to their page on funrazr.com.