As with all big stories, it’s hard to pinpoint just how it all began.
Was it when Vic and Vickie Bennett first decided to leave their frenzied lives as spa business leaders and enjoy a simpler and softer lifestyle?
Maybe it was while they were humming away in their lavender fields or building the home that serves as both Lavender Life Farm HQ and a tranquil personal retreat at the opening and closing of each blessed day.
Or, when they first laid eyes on their adopted grandson, Xander, and began to understand firsthand the challenges, traumas, and neglect that children coming from foster care often carry with them.
Vic and Vickie may have never imagined in those early days that the business they were establishing would emerge as a such a significant force for good. But, it was that perfect synthesis of events that landed them where they are today, traveling the country to deliver thousands of Xander Bunnies to foster care agencies with the goal of sending children in the system a clear message: “You are loved and not alone.”
Lavender-filled Xander Bunny provides calming therapy for children in foster care going through traumatic transitions.
To catch you up, if you aren’t familiar with the program, Xander Bunnies are plush, stuffed toys that have a small compartment filled with a bag of lavender and cherry pits. When warmed, they create a sensory experience that soothes and calms. A reassuring hug, you might say. And, every time someone purchases one of these bunnies for themselves or a loved one, Vic and Vickie give one to a child in foster care.
The program started small, initially just within Kent County, Michigan. As the news spread, and the Bennetts began to stockpile bunnies to give, they took to the road, visiting agencies in Ohio, New York, Maryland, DC, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Florida, and more. Since summer of 2018, more than 13,000 bunnies have been donated—many hand delivered on one of their many excursions.
With this effort has come an incredible reward; one that Vic and Vickie don’t want to keep all to themselves. Daily, they receive letters, texts, and emails that describe the effect these tokens of love have had on the lives of at-risk children and their foster families.
Safe Children Coalition of Sarasota, Florida shared this precious response from a brother and sister in foster care.
What else has come is a greater awareness of the struggle the coordinators endure in their attempts to restore families and rescue children. Supporting these unsung heroes and seeing the impact of that support is just as meaningful.
Sharon Foster is just one of the unsung heroes Vic and Vickie has met. She too was in foster care as a child, and is now married and has fostered/adopted a daughter who is now 26 yrs-old and an officer in the military. Sharon is a director at Embrace Families a large agency in Central Florida, serving thousands of children.
Simply put: the blessing is too big not to share.
Inspired by this bounty, the Bennetts have developed a new model that will empower churches, faith-based organizations, and community groups to become cheerleaders for front-line foster care workers and to reap the same benefits of charity and generosity that fill their days.
This partnership will mobilize these institutions and equip them with Xander Bunny kits (linen backpack, lavender spray, bunny, and bow) to deliver to their local agencies. Through the Xander Bunny Project, organizations can help shed light on the immense need. After all, a moved heart first begins with awareness.
The Bennetts are confident that this model will help them deliver faster, spread the joy of giving to many more people, prayerfully create a synergistic buzz about a dire need in every community, and even possibly help identify more safe environments for agencies to place kids, which has been noted as one of the greatest needs.
With a desire to reach all of the 440,000+ kids in foster care, they have a long way to go. But, with help, they can achieve their objective.
As one Wayne County, Michigan partner put it, “I just strongly feel that the mission you are serving is greater than putting a bunny in a bag. When every hand touches this project, they should feel service and gratitude.”
If you’ve had exposure to the foster care system, the children affected, or the behind-the-scenes superstars who put all their energy into protecting these vulnerable lives and wondered, "What can we do to help?" this is your opportunity.
Get your church or community group involved by contacting the Bennetts online here or calling Vic at 616-481-3349.