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A soothing gift: 4-H club donates aloe plants to Sanford Cancer Center

Members of the Indian Lake Progressives 4-H Club who helped present 30 aloe plants to the Sanford Cancer Center Wednesday include Kaiden Haberman (front, from left), Levi Hennings, Skylar Fisher and Brooklyn Fisher. Row two: Cole Hennings, Jalyn Lubben, Jaden Hennings, Tanner Hennings and Ethan Haberman. Row three: Maddie Ruesch, Hunter Lubben, Haley Ruesch and Lexi Ruesch. (BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE)

WORTHINGTON — They may not look like much — prickly sprigs of green growing every which direction from an assortment of flower pots — but the 30 aloe plants donated by a local 4-H club to the Sanford Cancer Center in Worthington will provide welcome relief to cancer patients undergoing radiation treatments.

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Members of the Indian Lake Progressives 4-H Club donated the aloe plants to the cancer center after school on Wednesday, intending they be distributed to patients who can use the soothing aloe on their burned and irritated skin following treatment.

Aloe provides some of the best relief for skin damaged by the radiation process — a fact shared with Kim Lambert, Nobles County Relay for Life co-chair and co-leader of the Round Lake-based 4-H club, when two of her fellow employees at Smith Trucking began radiation treatments this year.

“Several years ago, a former Smith employee had brought in aloe plants for anyone that wanted them,” Lambert said, adding that she had taken one and established numerous other plants from it over the years.

When she learned that aloe was one of the most recommended topical skin treatments for cancer patients undergoing radiation, she contacted the former employee, Lyle Meyer, and asked if she could get more plants.

“Lyle had oodles of plants,” she said, adding that Meyer was willing to give her all but one to reestablish for others. There were so many plants, Lambert was overwhelmed with the prospect of replanting them all, and that’s when she enlisted the help of 4-H members. The club does a Community Pride project each year, and this was an activity that would not only be a community service, but a benefit to many.

In September, the 4-H’ers spent a Sunday afternoon repotting each of the aloe plants. By the time they were finished, 30 plants had a new home, each in their own pot.

Lambert used the activity as an opportunity to educate the 4-H’ers about radiation and how it affects a cancer patient’s skin. She then took the plants home for nurturing until they were large enough to donate to the cancer center.

Wednesday’s delivery of 30 aloe plants to the Sanford Cancer Center coincided with the 32nd and final radiation treatment for Lambert’s boss, Phil Smith. Smith’s daughter, JoAnne Harberts, who is also employed by Smith Trucking, completed 33 radiation treatments earlier this year.

Smith and Harberts each used aloe plants to help soothe their skin following treatments. Harberts was diagnosed with breast cancer in April and completed her radiation treatments at the Sanford Cancer Center. Meanwhile, Smith was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx in September after undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his colon.

Harberts said she was given a list of recommended lotions to use on her affected skin, but the aloe plant’s soothing qualities worked better than anything she could have purchased over the counter.

“It’s not greasy, it soaks in and takes the pain away, too,” added Smith. “The big, fat ones were the best. (They contained the most aloe.)”

Having benefited from aloe plants, Smith and Harberts are glad to see a 4-H club donating aloe plants to help other cancer patients undergoing radiation treatments.

“It’s a good project, I think,” said Smith.

“It means a lot,” added Harberts.

As for the 4-H’ers, they were surprised by how fast the aloe plants grew in two months and were glad to help out people in need.

“It’s a good thing so we can help the people heal from the radiation, from burns,” said 13-year-old Hunter Lubben. He and his fellow 4-H’ers each planted three or four of the aloe plants in new pots.

“I think it’s a good idea — it’s something different that we haven’t done before,” added Haley Ruesch. As an eight-year member of the Indian Lake Progressives, Ruesch said their Community Pride projects in the past included such things as hosting a 5K to raise money for park improvements, and picking up sticks for community residents.

Colleen Jansma, office coordinator at the Sanford Cancer Center, said the plants, along with a letter regarding care and use, will be given to patients who need them. Once patients complete their radiation treatments, they may keep the plants or return them to Lambert for repotting and regifting to other cancer patients.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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