Students send planes to N.Y.

Sick 5-year-old boy seeks most paper airplanes world record

Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Soldotna High School students spent last Wednesday and Thursday doing a different sort of project.

Rather than banning them from the classroom, David Justice encouraged his students to fold paper airplanes.

The airplanes have been mailed to Hunter Winship, a 5-year-old boy in Freedom, N.Y., who is trying to set a world record for receiving the most paper airplanes. Winship suffers from a rare form of Non-Hodgkins lymphoma called Burkitts, a fast-growing tumor. Approximately 300 children per year are diagnosed with Burkitts in the United States, most are male.

At a recent checkup, Winship's tumor was the size of a tennis ball, but was a larger than a cantaloupe three days later. At last word, Winship was in stable condition in a room at Buffalo Children's Hospital in Buffalo, N.Y. He has been set up with Guinness World Records to try to receive the most airplanes.

"It sounded just off the wall enough that I would enjoy it," Justice said. "Plus, the kid getting a bunch of airplanes from Alaska would be pretty cool."

Justice, who teaches English at Soldotna High School, found out about the airplane project through an e-mail from Carolyn Hitzler, a Borough School District employee who received Winship's information from a friend who lives in Freedom.

"I looked at it and I thought that I could probably do this for my classes and get 60 or 70 of them," Justice said.

He underestimated. Justice got students throughout the high school involved and 1,168 planes were sent to Winship on Tuesday. Justice said that one student alone made 75 planes.

"The kids loved it and the teachers thought it was fun," he said. "It gave them a chance to fly an airplane around the room and not get in trouble for it."

Planes were made out of recycled paper from old tests, scratch paper and newspaper.

"We didn't waste anything that wasn't already wasted," Justice said.

Many Soldotna High School students also wrote personal messages for Winship on the planes.

In a recent e-mail from Winship's mother, Cheryl, she said the project has been helpful in many ways.

"This airplane thing is helping the whole family and not just Hunter," she said. "It has been great."

To help Winship achieve his goal, planes should have the state or country where they came from written on the wing and should be sent to: Hunter Winship (The Airplane Cancer Goal), 11227 North Hill Road, Freedom, N.Y., 14065.

Hannahlee Allers can be reached at

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