Nestled in a quiet Sherwood neighborhood, Pearl Street Urban Farm has germinated a new crop of hopefulness. This new farm has blossomed into a place where peace, joy and growing things flourish. Jennifer Bridges, a friend of the Tualatin Rotary Club and the founder of Embrace Compassion, has created a spot where children undergoing cancer treatments can experience farm life and fun.
Jennifer’s toddler son was diagnosed with childhood cancer in 2019. The entire Bridges family dedicated themselves to the care and treatment of Julian. Every hospital experience sparked an idea in Jennifer’s brain. What could make the cancer journey happier? Where could families with an ill child go for an outing? How could a family’s trauma be eased? Cancer treatments are hard and often without joy. So, Jennifer took her experiences and worked to make something new and better for others.
When little Julian lost his cancer struggle last year, Jennifer poured her grieving and sorrow into creating a place that would honor her son and bring happy experiences to families fighting the disease. As a result, families now can schedule a safe and free visit to the farm. A volunteer will personally guide them throughout each space. Children can gather eggs and hold chickens. They meet pygmy goats, Kunekune pigs and alpacas. They stroll through Julian’s garden and play on his playground. Families help plant and care for vegetables and flowers. Tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, garlic, grapes and fruit trees are flourishing. Harvesting all this produce will be a gala event this summer.
Each cancer child that visits is given a Brighter Box. Jennifer and her team also create monthly treats for each child in cancer treatment. Members of the Tualatin community are now being asked to sponsor these boxes with a donation of $40. An August box might include ripe berries and a kid sized apron. All the ingredients needed to make jam could be included. An age-appropriate book and a simple art project are also box items. The Brighter Boxes are a sweet surprise and help the families continue the farm fun when they return home.
Tualatin Rotary members have been involved with the farm for over two years now. Farm work is hard work. The entire area was covered in brush and brambles. The farmhouse needed to be rebuilt. Animal pens and a greenhouse were constructed.
Tualatin Rotary city dwellers tried their hands as farmworkers. Rotarians dug in deep to help the farm become a reality. The Tualatin Club placed a peace pole in Julian’s garden. There are tens of thousands of these poles in over 180 countries in the world. The poles are constant reminders to visualize peace and each one is inscribed with the message: “May Peace Prevail on Earth.” Little Julian’s middle name is Peace, and the pole seemed to be the perfect tribute for his garden.
Several Rotary club members arrived to weed and sow and build. Funds were given to Embrace Compassion to publish a book that tells the story of the farm. Rotary Youth Exchange students have pitched in on the regular Sunday volunteer times. The Bridges family were not farmers but they are now.
Their farm is now a beautiful spot and it is doing beautiful work. Children who undergo painful treatments giggle at the farm. Little ones who have compromised immune systems are free to wander in the farm setting. Cancer kids are able to be “just kids.” The incredible sadness at the loss of Julian has brought smiles to families who are engaged in the fight, and Jennifer and her family have taken their sorrow and provided other families with a respite from their struggle. The Pearl Street Urban Farm is fresh and filled with the prospect of fun.
If you are interested in helping with a Brighter Box, visit embracecompassion.org. If you would like to learn more about The Tualatin Rotary Club, head to www.tualatinrotary.org. New members are encouraged to join.