We're moms with a mission," says Sharon Nicholls, co-founder of the local nonprofit Green Hope Foundation with Teri Morin and Arisa Wolf. "We took something very devastating and turned it into a positive."
In 2004, within weeks of each other but thousands of miles apart, Morin's daughter and Wolf's daughter were both diagnosed with leukemia. The mothers met at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. "It was any parent's worst nightmare," Morin says. "Fortunately, St. Jude saved their lives."
Wolf recalls, "Teri and I became each other's great support. We made a promise that, when our lives got back somewhat to normal, we would give back in some way." And so, in 2008, the Green Hope Foundation was formed.
"People don't realize that the home can be one of the most harmful places," Nicholls says. Chemical household cleaners, pesticides, cosmetics, carpets, formaldehyde resins used in furniture manufacturing, high-VOC paints, molds, radon and carbon monoxide, and toxins on new clothing and bedding — many of these risk factors can be commonly found in the typical home.
Morin began to wonder if her daughter's cancer was caused by pollutants in the home. She says, "[Researchers] don't have a reason yet, but there may be environmental links to leukemia, and there are environmental links to other cancers. That was startling to me."
Conversely, Wolf was impressed by the safe homes they were able to create for their children after they were discharged from St. Jude. "Sometimes our daughters were at a zero white-blood-cell count and had no immune system to fight off anything," Wolf says. "Those choices we made in the home — what we cleaned with, what we used in our yards, the products our children used — became very serious decisions for us. We were able to keep them infection-free by using green cleaners, vinegar, and essential oils in the house."
"We weren't environmentalists," Morin says, to which Wolf quickly adds, "We're moms making healthy choices protecting our children."
Wolf continues, "It was something I learned through practice and the experience we went through. If we can make choices to lessen the chemicals that come in contact with our children, I'd like to pass on that knowledge."
The Green Hope Foundation is having something of a coming-out party on April 30th. That evening at Felicia Suzanne's, attendees will be treated to an organic meal and organic cocktails, a speaker from St. Jude, and a presentation by Christopher Gavigan, author of the bestseller Healthy Child, Healthy World. Cost is $125 per person, with proceeds to benefit St. Jude. Included in the price are dinner, drinks, and book, among other goodies.
"We're giving out great eco swag bags," Wolf says.
Later this year, the foundation is rolling out its next concept: the Eco Chic Home Party. Parties will include guest speakers, cleaning demos, and recipes. The organization also is soliciting community sponsors and companies to donate their green products for use at the parties.
Morin says, "Before my daughter was diagnosed, I didn't know about the hazards of pesticides and the importance of organic food. There are a lot of people like me in Memphis.
"We would like to give our mission to Memphis and maybe Memphis can help us carry it to other cities," Morin says. "It's a start."
Go to thegreenhopefoundation.org for more information.