West Linn girls prep for fifth annual sale to benefit cancer patients

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - From left, Lauren Henning, Audrey Minch and Lauren Jones work on putting together tea lights for the sale.It started small, with a few bundles of lavender and a $49 donation to the Children’s Cancer Association.

Twin sisters Emily and Lauren Henning were in first grade at the time, about 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 of West Linn” — and the fifth annual lavender sale on Aug. 23 is shaping up to be perhaps the most successful yet.

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.”

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Lavender Girls Sydney Steinberg, right, and Emily Henning put finishing touches on tea lights that will be part of the sale.

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 vases decorated with alcohol ink, jewelry and assorted baked goods.

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

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

The official lavender sale will take place over the course on Aug. 23 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., on the corner of Vista Ridge Drive and Coeur d’Alene Drive.

Then, on Aug. 24 from 9 a.m. to noon, the girls will be at the 23-acre Big Dog Stables in Oregon City to sell lavender items and $5 pony rides.

As 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 over 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 a trip to Hawaii to swim with dolphins.

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 last wish come true.”

To learn more, visit the Lavender Girls Facebook page at Donations can also be made directly to the Children's Cancer Association at

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - From left, Lauren Henning, Audrey Minch, Lauren Jones, Abigail Minch, Emily Henning and Sydney Steinberg work on their lavender crafts.

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