Event for Briana Dannen begins at 1:30 p.m. at Laurel Ridge

KOIN News 6 staff

and Sherwood Gazette

Like many children, Harper June Dannen was born prematurely — but few infants in history will share her story.

Her mother, Briana Dannen, gave birth to Harper on March 10.

Sherwood High School teacher Briana Dannen was 16 weeks pregnant with Harper June when she learned she had an aggressive form of cancer in October 2013 and began SUBMITTED PHOTO - Briana Dannen

On March 10, doctors induced labor, and Harper June was born at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, weighing in at only 5 pounds, 6 ounces.

“I can’t wait until she gets older, and I can explain everything that she, that we, went through,” said Dannen after giving birth. “Just how strong she was and how much of a fighter she was.”

Dannen said she chose the middle name June for Harper in memory of an aunt who succumbed to breast cancer.

Dannen fought through aggressive chemotherapy during her pregnancy, and the fight still isn’t over. Doctors cut the pregnancy short so that Dannen can begin her next round of chemotherapy.

“As ironic as it sounds, I’m excited or ready to have the chemo just to know it’s still killing the cancer,” Dannen said.

When Dannen discovered she had breast cancer, she was numb.

“I didn’t have any emotional reaction to it at first because I just couldn’t believe it,” she told KOIN 6 News. “Then I came home and told my husband and we had a good cry.”

The conversation she’ll someday have with her daughter, she knows well.

“Thirty-two years ago when my mom was pregnant with me, she had breast cancer as well. And she’s still here, so that’s an inspiration to me.”

She, her mother and five of her aunts all were diagnosed with breast cancer. One aunt and her grandmother died from the disease, “but the rest have led great lives.”

Her fighting spirit prevailed as treatment began in October. She finds strength in her husband, their 1-year-old daughter and her new second child.

Up until shortly before she gave birth, Dannen was still teaching interior design classes at Sherwood High School while sharing life lessons.

“She is such an inspiration to everybody,” said junior Megan Ouellette. “She has definitely changed on the outside, but on the inside she’s always that wonderful, bright person.”

Gail Cutsforth, one of Dannen’s close friends, started a crowdfunding effort through Go Fund Me (visit to help defray her medical costs.

That amount had risen to almost $25,000 as of March 12.

The unwavering support and compassion from her students and the Sherwood community is a blessing Dannen has come to cherish. They are loving qualities she plans to teach her own children.

“Staying positive is the way to beat this, and I will,” she said. “Deep down, I know I will.”

Meanwhile, McCabe Real Estate Group is hosting its annual Egg Hunt for Hope event to benefit Dannen and her family.

Leslie McCabe said she met Dannen several years ago and worked with her on the Bowman House, the home built by Sherwood High School students where Dannen and her students designed and staged the interior of the home. The McCabes sold the house for the Sherwood School District.

“She is a gracious, kind, soft spoken but hard-working lady who has become a friend,” said McCabe. “When Briana was diagnosed with cancer, we knew this year’s event had to be for her and her family.”

McCabe said Dorene Steffeck, a Sherwood High School teacher, coordinated a huge egg stuffing event at the high school with students and staff donating candy and stuffing more than 14,000 eggs. Then, Forest Grove High School, where Briana graduated, held a plastic egg drive for her, collecting more than 7,000 eggs for the event. All the while, Aurora Taylor, a social studies and leadership teacher at SHS, organized a candy drive competition at the high school to fill the eggs.

Meanwhile, last year’s Egg Hunt For Hope recipient, Rachel Schoening, the owner of Fat Milo’s Family kitchen restaurant (who is also battling cervical cancer), recently held a community dinner to benefit Egg Hunt For Hope, donating all money raised to Briana and her family, said McCabe.

“I am honestly humbled by the support and generosity not only from our community but from people all over our state and even outside of Oregon,” said McCabe. “In just one week, over $20,000 was raised online for Briana and her family. I am thrilled that all money raised will personally go directly to Briana.”

The Egg Hunt for Hope event is set for Saturday, April 12, at the Laurel Ridge Middle School athletic track. The pre-egg hunt begins at 12:30 p.m., and the egg hunts begin at 1:30 p.m. Cost is $3 per child. McCabe said the Easter Bunny will be on hand for the event as well.

Visit the Egg Hunt For Hope Facebook page or go to for more details.

KOIN News 6 is a news partner with Pamplin Media Group. Gazette staff also contributed to this article.

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