June 12, 2012

Documentary by Prof. Nandini Sikand Chronicles Life of David Heard and National Crane Project

A documentary film about Lafayette’s National Crane Project will be shown as part of the Southside Film Festival in Bethlehem 7:25 p.m. Wednesday, June 13, and 7:25 p.m. and 9:10 p.m. Thursday, June 14, at Victory Firehouse in Bethlehem.

Susan Heard (left), David Heard, and Mary Jo Lodge, assistant professor of English, at a crane-stringing party held at Lafayette.

Susan Heard (left), David Heard, and Mary Jo Lodge, assistant professor of English, at a crane-stringing party held at Lafayette.

The 18-minute film, Cranes of Hope, was produced by Nandini Sikand, assistant professor of film and media studies, and documents the life of 10-year-old David Heard, the inspiration for the National Crane Project. David died in February 2011 after a two-year battle with cancer, but his dream of giving hope to other pediatric cancer patients continues through the construction and distribution of colorful crane mobiles.

“We’re charging ahead,” says Mary Jo Lodge, associate professor of English, and founder of the National Crane Project. “We have about 100,000 cranes. We want to put them anywhere children will see them to raise awareness about pediatric cancer.”

The documentary also captures some of the trying moments experienced by David’s parents, Susan and Tom Heard ’91, and his younger sister as they struggled to accept and understand his eventual death. The Heards are supporters of St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which raises awareness and funds research for childhood cancers. Susan is also a member of the 46 Mommas group and shaved her head with other inductees last year to draw attention to the fact that every weekday in the U.S., 46 mothers are told their child has cancer.

David died shortly after Sikand filmed the family at its Easton home.

“It’s really told through Susan’s eyes as a mother and how do you cope and become an activist on your child’s behalf when you’re faced with this incredibly difficult situation,” says Lodge.

David got the idea to donate crane mobiles to pediatric cancer wards of hospitals after Lodge invited him and his family to attend a play she directed at the College, A Thousand Cranes.

The play is based on the true story of a 12-year-old girl who attempts to fold 1,000 cranes after she develops leukemia following the atomic bombing of her hometown of Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II. Japanese legend holds that anyone who folds 1,000 paper cranes will be granted one wish. Sadako dies before reaching her goal, but friends and family finish the task in her memory.

The casts of Lafayette and East Stroudsburg University, which also staged the play, gave David the 2,000 cranes used on their sets.

Lafayette and the community embraced his cause, folding thousands of cranes and installing mobiles at three area hospitals and one in California before he died. Twelve more have found homes across the country since then, says Lodge, including one at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest that was created by Crayola employees.

“They made some of the cranes from Crayola wrapping paper so they look like crayons,” she says. “It’s been really exciting.”

In May, legendary ESPN announcer and analyst Dick “Dickie V” Vitale, who raises money for cancer research for the V Foundation, announced that there will be a V Foundation Pediatric Research grant in David’s name.

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  1. We will always be thankful to our neighbors and friends on College Hill who made this possible! I am continually touched at the investment Lafayette College makes in their community. Thank you! Students who attend Lafayette and have the opportunity to take classes with Nandini and Mary Jo are beyond lucky!

    says Susan Heard
    July 2, 2012 at 10:21 am
  2. A brilliant film for a courageous family! The Crane Project is one of the most valuable and far-reaching things we’ve done. Thanks, Mary Jo and Nandini!

    says Suzanne Westfall
    June 13, 2012 at 8:28 am

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