Girls prep for annual sale to benefit cancer patients, now in Oregon City

It started small, with a few bundles of lavender and a $49 donation to the Children’s Cancer Association.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - From left, Lauren Henning, Audrey Minch and Lauren Jones work on putting together tea lights for the sale.Twin sisters Emily and Lauren Henning were in first grade at the time, five years ago, and they wanted to find a way to help their mother, Jeanette, with her volunteer work at the Children’s Cancer Association. They noticed that there was an unusual amount of lavender in their backyard and that it was almost exactly the same color as the CCA logo.

“Our first-grade minds made that connection,” Lauren Henning said. “Purple and purple matched.”

The $49 accrued from that first sale wasn’t much, but it proved to be a building block to something bigger. Over the past five years, Emily and Lauren have brought more and more of their friends into the group — which took on the name “Lavender Girls” — and the fifth annual lavender sale is shaping up to be perhaps the most successful yet.

This year the sale will span two days and two cities — on Friday, Aug. 23, the sale will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 23 on the corner of Vista Ridge Drive and Coeur d’Alene Drive in West Linn, and on Saturday, Aug. 24, the sale will be held from 9 a.m. to noon at Big Dog Stables, 13262 S. Leland Road in Oregon City.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Maddie Sand braids TinkerBell's mane at Big Dog Stables in Oregon City to prepare for the lavender sale there this weekend. Judy Herson, owner of Big Dog Stables, was so touched by the work of the lavender girls that she opened up her 23 acres for the girls to sell lavender goodies and will offer pony rides for $5 each on Saturday, Aug. 24. Many of the Lavender Girls have made Big Dog Stables their “second home” over the years where they’ve taken horseback lessons, camped out, and spent time just hanging out helping Herson with the care of the horses and grounds.

The Lavender Girls are a passionate group of preteens who are determined to put the excess lavender growing in their yards to helping critically ill kids in their community. They’ve sewn lavender sachets, gathered bundles of fresh picked lavender, prepared homemade baked goods, lavender bath salts and hand-painted votives with lavender stalks.

In the past, the group elected to help a 4-year-old girl who bravely battled leukemia by contributing their funds toward a fully furnished backyard playhouse complete with a pink iPod and matching speakers. A few years ago, the girls contributed to help Kate, a CCA-served girl, swim with the dolphins in Hawaii.

In 2012, a portion of their earnings went toward a surprise “pick-me-up” for a 13-year-old patient at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. Through the years the girl had had two heart surgeries, a liver transplant in 2001, and a kidney transplant in July 2012. She was crazy about Justin Beiber, to the point that her hospital room was decked out with posters and a life-size cardboard cutout that she carried around the floor with her. On the day of her discharge there were about 15 hospital staff in her room to say goodbye and watch her receive a surprise gift of Beiber concert tickets.

Profits have jumped exponentially since that first sale, from $49 in 2009 to $162 in 2010, $1,600 in 2011 and $2,400 last year. Each year, the money is used on special gifts for children who are often terminally ill.

“All the money goes to the Children’s Cancer Association,” Lauren said. “And they use it on kids who have cancer, as their wish. ... It’s CCA’s version of Make a Wish.”

As profits have grown, so too has the scope of the craftwork. Where at first the girls simply gathered the lavender into bundles and sold it, now they take pains each year to come up with fresh ideas. This time around, they are making lavender pouches and sachets, as well as decorated vases, jewelry and assorted baked goods.

To go along with the material from the girls’ backyard, Lavender at Stonegate Farm in West Linn and Wilsonville’s Barn Owl Nursery also have donated lavender to the cause.

“It’s pretty much all local stuff — we don’t import anything,” Lavender Girl Sydney Steinberg said.

The hope is that a wide variety of items for sale will help offset the shorter timeframe in Oregon City. And once the word gets out, people tend to be more generous.

“Last year a few people donated $100, or $50 or $20,” Lauren said. “And that really helped.”

Once the sale is over, the group sends its earnings to the CCA. Shortly thereafter, the CCA replies with a list of needs from its patients and the Lavender Girls are tasked with deciding where the money goes.

“Sometimes we try to pick less expensive wishes,” Lauren said. “So they can do more with the money.”

Aside from Justin Bieber tickets, the Lavender Girls have in past years given out everything from a pink ukulele to an outdoor playhouse and even the trip to Hawaii.

Not bad for a project that started with the Henning twins, a cousin and one of their neighbors. The group has now expanded to 15 girls from various West Linn middle schools and doubles as an extracurricular social opportunity.

“I’ve met a few new people here because I’m a grade younger,” said Lauren Jones, another member of the group.

But ultimately, it’s the giving aspect of the project that has the most profound impact.

“I think it makes us all feel good that we’re helping people,” she said. “And making their wish come true.”

To learn more, visit the Lavender Girls Facebook page at

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