Origami Master Creates Smiles For Sick Children At Oakland Children's Hospital - NBC Bay Area
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Origami Master Creates Smiles For Sick Children At Oakland Children's Hospital

Origami Master Creates Smiles For Sick Children

Bernie Peyton says he has known of therapeutic powers of origami ever since he was a young boy, sitting at his sick sister's bedside, folding amazing creations and taking her mind off her illness. (Published Friday, Jan. 8, 2016)

Of all the miracle medicines and million dollar machines the doctors and nurses at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland use every day to make their patients feel better, volunteer Bernie Peyton can do them all one better.

Peyton sees similar results with a single, square piece of paper.

"I say to them, here's a piece of paper and all we're going to do is we're going to fold it and we're going to make something creative and magical," Peyton said.

Folding a piece of paper into something creative is a good, general, definition of the art of origami. The 'magical' part, though, is something Peyton specializes in.

More than 20 years ago, Peyton, a wildlife biologist by training, decided to switch gears and become serious about his origami. Peyton had been folding paper ever since he was young boy, but it had always been just a pleasant diversion for him.

Since then, Peyton's works have been displayed, and sold, all over the world. His specialty are remarkably life-life, often whimsical, wildlife creatures. His work regularly fetches thousands of dollars when put up for sale.

Still, all the accolades he receives, Peyton says, are nothing compared to the smiles he gets from children during his weekly visits teaching children the craft at Oakland Children's.

"It's my favorite day of the week, by far," Peyton said.

Peyton says he learned of the power of origami to help patients very early on in life. As a boy, he would sit at his chronically sick sister's hospital bedside entertaining her with his creations.

"It's tremendously therapeutic," Peyton said.

"It's all about the ephemeral moment, catching that that piece of poetry life where you're taking somebody out of their present condition and bringing them into another space."

It is with just that purpose Peyton comes to the hospital to sit with children and teach them the basics, and sometimes more, of origami.

Most, if not all, of the children distractedly unaware they are learning from a master. Peyton says he prefers that people not make a big deal about his accomplishments. "It's not about me," Peyton said, "it's all about helping these children."

Photo credit: Bernie Peyton

Peyton says the work they do together, while certainly fun, has a much deeper meaning as well. He says the process of creating with origami is often a metaphor for what these children are going through.

"A lot of these kids, they just need to know that they're gonna get better one step at a time, little by little," Peyton said. "And you can you can model that with origami and you can talk to them and say, you know that was a difficult fold you've had a little setback today, next fold's gonna be better."