West Linn sisters and their friends raise money for the
Children's Cancer by selling lavender bundles and other themed items.
Eight years ago, two young girls from West Linn decided they wanted to join their mother in volunteering with the Children's Cancer Association in Portland. But Lauren and Emily Henning were too young to participate in the "Chemopals" program with their mom Jeanette, so the twins decided to support the CCA in a way that expressed the pair's creativity.
With an abundance of lavender in the yard of their West Linn home and purple being the color associated with the CCA, the Henning girls realized that they could sell bundles of the flowers to raise funds to fulfill the requests of children battling cancer — whether for toys to play with or opportunities to experience something they'd always dreamed about.
"It started with a couple neighbors and was really small," Jeanette Henning says. "They didn't raise much, but they they kept it going each year and now they've raised (more than) $13,000."
For the past several years, the Henning girls — along with friends across West Linn and Lake Oswego — have continued their lavender sales in support of the CCA. Each year, the nonprofit sends a list of requests to the "Lavender Girls," and the sisters then help decide where the funds they've raised should be directed.
Some of the requests they've fielded include cowboy boots, a toddler bed, grocery cards, a ukulele and even a chance to swim with dolphins in Hawaii. In 2012, a portion of the funds the Lavender Girls raised went toward a surprise "pick-me-up" for a 13-year-old patient at Doernbecher Children's Hospital.
The young girl had already undergone two heart surgeries and both a liver and kidney transplant. She was crazy about Justin Bieber, though, and kept her hospital room walls decked out with posters of the Canadian pop singer. On the day of her discharge, there were about 15 hospital staff in her room to say goodbye and to watch her receive a surprise gift of concert tickets.
"We like seeing the kids receive the stuff they want or need and how happy it makes them," Lauren Henning says. "It's really rewarding to see that."
The Hennings also say they enjoy raising money for the CCA because it's a local charity. The organization is based in downtown Portland and serves much of the Portland metro area, which means the family's efforts are making an impact close to home.
That's a message that resonated with many of their friends, too, including fellow West Linn residents and twins Audrey and Abby Minch.
"We're a family who are pretty involved in social action and philanthropic ventures," says Michelle Bombet-Minch, Audrey and Abby's mother. "My girls love craft projects, so this was an opportunity to put their craftiness to good use."
Because the charitable endeavor has grown over the past eight years, the Lavender Girls have had to expand their search for lavender from backyards to local you-pick farms in order to meet the demand. To date, the Lavender Girls are averaging around $1,000 per year in funds raised for CCA.
"It makes me feel proud that their hearts are so open and they think of others," Jeanette Henning says."But I know a lot of kids are that way. They do lemonade stands and bake sales where they donate the proceeds, and that's a great trend. I think it's what we need right now."
Lauren Henning says the inclusion of a few younger girls into their group — mostly younger siblings of current Lavender Girls — ensures that the program will continue long after the Hennings and Minches, all four of whom are heading into their junior year at West Linn High School, head off to college or wherever their hearts lead them.
"A lot of the girls doing it with us have younger siblings, so we're recruiting them to join so we can pass it down to them," she says.
The Lavender Girls will be selling their fresh picked lavender bundles, lavender soaps and other themed items to raise funds for the CCA at the West Linn Street Market on Wednesday, Aug. 23, from 4-8 p.m. on the west end of the Historic Willamette District along Willamette Falls Drive. For more information on the Children's Cancer Association visit JoyRx.org.