In Japanese tradition, if a person folds 1,000 paper cranes, that person gets a wish.
One of the most famous tales of this practice is that of Sadako Sasaki, who was 11 when atomic bombs were dropped about a mile from her home at the end of World War II.
Soon, she developed leukemia and while in the hospital she folded the cranes — a Japanese symbol of luck and longevity — in hopes of a cure.
While there are various versions of the story — it’s disputed whether she completed the cranes before she died at the age of 12 — the story lingers as one of hope and determination.
For Team Paper Cranes, which will be walking in next month’s Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk, their wish is simple.
They hope to help save the lives of those stricken ill with cancer.
While the team is run by members from Vermont, locally, Fairmount resident Karen Blanchard has joined her friend, West Philadelphia resident Alesa Rubendall, to walk the 26.2 mile course of the Boston Marathon for next month’s Jimmy Fund Walk.
The women are former college roommates who have stayed close throughout the years and are now colleagues at Center City’s Wallace Roberts and Todd architecture firm.
Together, they will embark on their journey on Sunday, Sept. 18.
“I’m from Boston, so, I’m looking forward to going back,” Blanchard said during an interview last week. “But, it’s my first time doing anything like this.”
However, she said, walking the entire course of the marathon will be difficult. While Blanchard’s never done anything like this before, Rubendall has run marathons in the past.
Together, the two have been training since May to prepare for the upcoming event, walking about 20 miles each weekend.
“It’s Copley or bust,” said a grinning Rubendall, in talking about the course that will end at Boston’s Copley Square.
Although Rubendall has run marathons in the past, she said, the endurance needed for the long walk is incredible, not to mention the tremendous strain that the long distance and time spent walking put on one’s body.
The walk offers four courses — the 26.3-mile full course as well as a 13.1-mile stretch and five- and three-mile routes — but the women said they wanted to walk the complete marathon.
“I’ve gotten more blisters in training for this than in anything (else I’ve trained for),” said Rubendall. “It’s [walking] so much more physically exhausting than running. The time commitment is just enormous.”
The longtime friends, both 36, said that they can walk approximately 12 miles in a little more than three and a half hours, meaning the coming 26.3-mile course will take more than seven hours.
“And we’re really hoping that will be in good weather,” said Blanchard.
Since the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk began 22 years ago, the event has raised more than $73 million for the Dana-Farber Cancer Research Center.
The fund was established in 1948 to help a 12-year-old boy beat cancer. He was originally known simply as “Jimmy” to protect his identity, though in 1998, Einar Gustafson came forward as the young cancer survivor.
Both women said they had a special reason for participating in this year’s walk.
“We each have our own motivation,” said Blanchard.
For Rubendall, she’s walking to support her mother-in-law who is the captain of Team Paper Cranes.
For Blanchard, she’s walking for her father who was diagnosed with bladder cancer a year ago.
Also, they said, it helps that they can train together as long time friends.
“It has been great,” said Blanchard of the training. “It really helps that I’ve been able to do this with her.”
“That, and it’s all to support a good cause,” interjected Rubendall.
Both women have friends and family sponsoring them and all totaled, as of Thursday, Aug. 25th, Team Paper Cranes has raised more than $43,000 to help support cancer research.
“It’s really been fun,” said Blanchard.
Reporter Hayden Mitman can be reached at 215-354-3124 or firstname.lastname@example.org