Diane Dunn's Facebook group is making 100,000 'peace cranes' to honor those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Diane Dunn of Deer Island shows off some of the peace cranes shes created recently, part of her Facebook groups effort to fold 100,000 cranes and — after each one — offer a word of hope, a prayer or a peaceful thought for the benefit of those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finding hope in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic can be difficult, but one woman in Deer Island is bringing a little light to the community.

Diane Dunn, who lives just north of St. Helens, created the "100,000 Peace Cranes" Facebook group after the United States recorded its 100,000th COVID-19 death. The group now has over 130 members from five different countries willing to donate their time—and paper—for the cause.

"I folded peace cranes in the past and had this urge to do something to memorialize such a large number of people affected by the pandemic," recalled Dunn. "So, I thought, '100,000 cranes, can I do this? How am I going to do this?'"

In past projects, it has taken Dunn about two months to fold 1,000 cranes. She remembers folding that number in honor of World AIDS Day almost 20 years ago.

Dunn says folding cranes has become a peaceful and meditative practice that she enjoys doing. The Deer Island resident hopes the practice can bring peace to those who join the group.

"I'm not trying to collect all 100,000 in one place," explained Dunn. "I'm not asking people to send them to me. I'm asking them to fold with the intention of a prayer, or a thought of peace for the world or in memory of someone."

For those wanting to help with no crane folding experience, Dunn uploaded a step-by-step instructional video to show newcomers how they can turn a piece of paper into a three-dimensional piece of art. She is also willing to host a folding party — from a distance — for those who may need a little more instruction.

It takes Dunn less than a minute to fold a crane, she said, and about five minutes for someone starting out to do the same. So far, she's folded 332 cranes for her Facebook group.

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Diane Dunn made peace cranes as far back as 25 years ago for a World Aids Day event in Anchorage, Alaska, and also made 1,000 for an auction fundraiser to benefit her previous work as a hospice chaplain.

"I've learned to watch a favorite TV show and fold cranes — but that's not being very mindful, so I am trying to be mindful and intentional with folding this time around," Dunn said.

The group has folded 650 cranes in total. Dunn added that the goal is not to pressure those wanting to help, but instead inspiring people who want to join the project.

"I figured I would check in once every week just to kind of jog people's memory," she said. "If somebody wants to take one crane, (then) that's great — everyone counts."

Though the pressure is off right now, Dunn hopes to have the project done later this year by Sept. 21, also known as World Peace Day.

As for other causes, Dunn acknowledges that the project has shifted from praying or sending thoughts to those impacted by the pandemic to sending positive messages to people peacefully protesting after the death of George Floyd.

Protests have erupted around the world in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man killed May 25 by a white Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Diane Dunn has a long history of folding peace cranes, and now she can create a single crane in just a few minutes.

The officer, Derek Chauvin, has been fired from the police force and is charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers who aided Chauvin at the scene are also being charged as accessories.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 death toll in the United States continues to grow. It eclipsed 100,000 late last month and is expected to surpass the U.S. death toll of 116,516 in World War I, the third-deadliest conflict for Americans in the country's history, within a matter of days.

With so much violence and death in the headlines, Dunn said the message of her 100,000 Peace Cranes is more vital than it's ever been.

"This born out of a need of mine to try and memorialize the many deaths from COVID," explained Dunn, "and with the recent death of George Floyd and other people of color … for people, that might be their reason for folding a crane of peace."

She added, "This project is coming at a time where now more than ever, we need to come together and have hope and promote peace as much as possible."

When asked about what message she hopes others take from the Peace Cranes project, Dunn said, "That everybody can make a small gesture of peace. When in combination with other small gestures, they can become something bigger than ourselves."

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