Artist, who has spent a decade working with patients at UCSF Children's Hospital, receives kindness award

Berkeley origami artist Bernie Peyton, who volunteers at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, has been named the winner of January's Chris Kindness Award. (Alan Ross/Chris Kindness Award )

A Berkeley origami artist, who has for years spent every Thursday sharing his craft with young hospital patients at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, was being honored as part of a local kindness initiative started by a UC Berkeley professor.

Every month since November, the Chris Kindness Award has identified an outstanding member of the community who has demonstrated selfless acts of kindness. The contest was based on nominees and votes from the community. 

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Berkeley origami artist, Bernie Peyton (left), being honored with the Chris Kindness Award during a ceremony standing next to the initiative's founder, Alan Ross, along with Terri Chytrowski, Executive Director of Chris Kindness Award (right) at UCSF (Terri Chytrowski/Chris Kindness Award)

The latest winner of the award was Bernie Peyton, who was submitted as a nominee from someone who described him as "a very generous and kind man," who has spent his Thursday mornings for the past 10 years volunteering at Children's Hospital to teach origami to patients. 

The submission went on to say, "According to Bernie's wife, Thursday is the best day of the week for him. He is patient and brings smiles and laughter to the children." 

Peyton has supplied all the paper himself and has used his art to provide calming and therapy, not only to patients, but to their siblings and families as well. 

On the artist's website, where he’s shared many of his intricate, detailed paper creations, he wrote about his volunteer work and how it has moved him to be able to use his skills to help young people and their families.

"Several instances stand out among the many thousands of children who have experienced the therapeutic value of doing origami," Peyton shared. "A few years back I encountered a nine year-old boy crying in his hospital room after learning the bad results of a recent blood test for his cancer. His mother was doing her best to preserve her own composure and console him."

Peyton went on to say that he noticed a cartoon of a carp fish on the child’s laptop, so the origamist sat down and got to work, creating a 3-D replica of the animated figure.  

"It took me 5-10 minutes to design a similar looking hat to cover his bald head, which he folded himself. He and his mother paraded his achievement around the entire floor of the hospital. Smiles took the place of tears, including the nursing staff," Peyton shared.

The artist described the effect of origami on people as "magical." And he noted that for those in the hospital, the process served as a respite. "Patients and their families take a vacation from stress as they experience the fun of folding," he explained on his website. 

Peyton represented the third ever winner of the recently launched Chris Kindness Award, which required award recipients to live, work or attend school in the city of Berkeley. 

The first winner was  Michele Williams, a fourth grade teacher at the Berkeley Arts Magnet (BAM) School. Williams was described as a dedicated and caring educator who has gone out of her way to follow up and keep in touch with a former student with special needs.

On Dec, 7. 2022, Berkeley teacher Michele Williams was named the inaugural winner of the "Chris Kindness Award." (Chris Kindness Award)

December’s winner was a bus driver named Alisa Jackson, who has spent 10% of her income to prepare and provide food for the homeless, as well as giving out blankets to those living on the streets. 

Bus driver Alisa Jackson was named December's recipient of the "Chris Kindness Award."

Each recipient of the kindness award has received $1,000 with the award money personally funded by the initiative’s founder Alan Ross

The professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, launched his kindness initiative to promote, celebrate, and reward those who engaged in acts of kindness in his city. 

Ross said Peyton has decided to donate his award money to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals’ School Program.

For Peyton, his work as a volunteer has offered the best reward he could ask for.  

The artist said that time and time again, he has seen the healing, magical effects of turning a square sheet of paper into something that seemed to pop to life. 

"I have seen pain and vomiting stop in patients as they fold," Peyton shared. "Origami instills a positive attitude for healing to occur."