Saving Our Kids, Healing Our Planet is the brainchild of a pediatric, holistic RN -Maureen McDonnell and Jill Urwick a dedicated and determined mom of a child with autism.
Saving Our Kids, Healing Our Planet (SOKHOP) is at the forefront of a new movement focused on sustainable living practices and safe and effective methods for preventing and recovering our children from ADHD, Autism, Allergies, Asthma, Obesity, Diabetes etc. It is a forum where parents, teachers, therapists and physicians become informed regarding safe and effective strategies for preventing and treating many of the chronic conditions affecting our kids today.
Why in the midst of an abundance of research substantiating the use of nutrients, the role toxins play in these conditions and the importance of dietary changes to prevent and treat various conditions , does the pharmaceutical approach remain the most common (and sometimes the only) treatment option parents are given? Pharmaceuticals alone are not the solution to the growing health and behavioral conditions affecting our children. SOKHOP provides information on the role non sustainable practices, nutrition and the environment play and offers real solutions for these growing problems.
Take a look at these statistics:
- In the last 30 years, there has been a 300% increase in asthma. And 6.7 million or 1 in 10 children presently have a diagnosis of asthma.6
- 7.3 million children have allergies Food allergies affect one in every 13 children.7
- Obesity rates in children have tripled since 1980 and now 17% of our kids are either very overweight or obese.8
- The CDC reports that 1 in 6 children have either a neurological, developmental or behavioral disorder.9
- 1 in 6 children in public school now receive special education
- Our academic achievement is lagging with US scores on reading, science and math dropping during the last 15 years to near the bottom of the OECD nations (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).10
- ADHD is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder and affects one in 10 children.11
- 1 in 7 school aged children receive antipsychotic medication.12
- We have the highest rate of diagnosed mental illnesses (Walton 2011) and the highest incarceration rate in the world.13
- The Autism rate was 1 in 5000 30 years ago and now according to the CDC it is one in 68.14
- Epilepsy/seizures affect one in 20 children.15,16
- During this same 30 year time period, the US became the most heavily vaccinated country in the world. The number of immunizations given to our children increased from 11 (administered before the age of 5), to the current number of 36-45 (26 in the first year).17
- Heart disease is the fifth leading cause of death in 1-5 year olds.18
12 million children in the US have been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, which is primarily not genetic in origin, but rather is related to diet and lifestyle.19
- Cancer is the leading cause of death in children. More than 15,000 children were diagnosed in 2014. One of the most rapidly increasing rates of cancer is for children under the age of 13.20
- The Infant Mortality rate is one of the most important indicators of the health of a nation, as it is associated with a variety of factors such as maternal health, quality and access to medical care, socioeconomic conditions and public health practices. In 2004 the last year the data are available for all countries, the US ranked 29th in the world in infant mortality, tied with Poland and Slovakia. I have to check, but I think we now rank 34th in the world.21–23
Although startling, these numbers are real! What is the solution? As Albert Einstein said “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” We must take a step back, identify where we as a society went off track regarding the health of our kids and begin to put wisdom back into our lives.
Martha Herbert, MD, PhD, a pediatric neurologist and faculty member at Harvard Medical school states: “In the last several generations, our technology has been ahead of our science. We have filled the world with new-to-nature substances and we have massively altered our food supply without measuring the health & ecological consequences. Now it’s time to wake up, take responsibility for our dangerous situation, and put wisdom back into our lives”.
Maureen has been coordinating children’s health conferences since 1993 with some of the country’s leading physicians and researchers and has been writing about and helping treat children’s health and behavioral problems as a holistic RN using nutritional methods for 40 years.
Maureen started her nursing career in the Labor and Delivery department of an inner-city hospital. It didn’t take long for her to realize that the western medical model lacked an understanding and respect for the natural process of labor and birth and (although necessary in a small percentage of women) was far too quick to intercede with unnecessary medical and pharmaceutical procedures and interventions. As a result of this experience and her studies of natural birth and healing as well as her awakening regarding the role nutrition plays in a healthy pregnancy and birth, Maureen became a certified childbirth instructor. Her classes provided information on various strategies to minimize unnecessary and often harmful medical and pharmaceutical procedures and extensive and empowering information pertaining to the mother’s diet during pregnancy and while breastfeeding in order to minimize the risks associate with pregnancy, labor, birth and the post-partum period.
In 1991 Maureen became the Director of Patient Education at the Princeton Brain Bio Center in Skillman, NJ where she assisted Sidney M. Baker, MD (cofounder of the Defeat Autism Now! Movement) in providing nutritional treatments and health education services for a chronically-ill population including many children with autism.
In 1993 after the Princeton Brain Bio Center closed, Maureen and Dr. Sidney Baker, MD began working together in private practice in Hopewell, NJ where she interacted with hundreds of parents of children with autism and witnessed firsthand their day to day struggles. As the country’s premier provider of biomedical treatments for autism , Dr. Baker offered assessments and interventions while Maureen counseled parents on diet as well as ways to lessen their & their children’s exposure to toxins. Also during this time, Maureen began speaking at various conferences on the role nutrition and environmental toxins play in autism and other children’s health conditions.
Recognizing a pressing need for improved public awareness on ways to both prevent illnesses & treat conditions using natural methods, in 1993 she created a platform for parents, teachers, therapists and physicians to learn from renowned authors. The topics at these Wellness Workshops ranged from: How to Raise Healthy Children in a Toxic World to women’s health issues including the critical need for women to get healthy prior to conceiving, as well as – natural approaches for preventing and treating PMS, Menopause, Depression and Breast Cancer.
In 1998, one of the most dedicated professionals ever to emerge out of the autism crisis, Dr. Bernard Rimland PhD (author of Infantile Autism and founder of the Autism Society of America and the Autism Research Institute) became aware of Maureen’s seminars and invited her to become the national coordinator of the Defeat Autism Now! Conferences. For the next 10 years, Maureen organized these events that targeted parents, physicians and researchers which took place biannually and bi-coastally and drew 1000 attendees from around the world.
Eventually these Defeat Autism Now (DAN)! conferences became known as the premier event where physicians and parents could obtain scientifically-validated information as well as practical tools for addressing the underlying causes & treatments for the medical issues affecting children with autism. Maureen also spearheaded the efforts to provide the same information but in smaller more localized venues, including college auditoriums & hospitals. She also initiated the push to provide medical training and continuing education credits for physicians, nurses and other licensed health care providers.
In 2008 after leaving her role as the DAN! conference coordinator, Maureen cofounded the Saving Our Kids, Healing Our Planet conferences and website (sokhop.com). SOKHOP had a clear focus on natural ways to prevent autism and other childhood disorders. In 2008 and again in 2010 SOKHOP hosted events held at large conference centers and university campuses.
In 2011 Maureen was asked by Deirdre and Don Imus to become the Medical Coordinator of the Imus Ranch for Kids with Cancer in New Mexico which she continued until the ranch closed in 2014.
In 2011 she also became the Health Editor of WNC Woman’s Magazine. She has published over 70 articles focused on women and children’s health issues in this and other magazines including Pathways, Natural Awakenings and the Autism File.
Over the last 25 years, Maureen has presented at various parent and physician attended conferences including the Defeat Autism Now! Conferences, Intersect4Kids, COSAC & Autism Canada. She has also been a guest speaker on radio and TV- including (Imus in the Morning)
She lives with her husband Hugo Hanson, CPA, in the mountains of western North Carolina and recently they welcomed their 11th grandchild into the world!
Maureen is dedicated to helping our kids live healthier lives!
After obtaining her degree in Psychology and Human Services from Wingate University (where she met her amazing husband, Lee), Jill Urwick became the parent of three beautiful children, a son with autism, a son with ADHD, and a healthy daughter.
After receiving the diagnoses for her sons, Jill consulted and followed the advice given to her by a variety of “specialists”. Fortunately, it did not take Jill long to realize that the traditional medical approaches for treating these disorders (often involving harsh pharmaceuticals) were not only incredibly ineffective, they were causing more harm than good. Jill eventually came to realize that the so-called experts had very little understanding or even interest in the underlying causes of these disorders, and therefore lacked effective treatment strategies.
Jill’s drive to find real solutions for her boys prompted her to do extensive research and eventually led her to the work of Dr. Stephanie Cave, MD and others who were treating autism and other chronic conditions affecting our children with a “biomedical” approach. This strategy focused on nutrition, detoxification, targeted supplements and more. The positive results in behavior, attention and physical health that she witnessed in her boys after applying the principles finally opened an avenue of real and lasting hope for Jill and her family.
As Jill progressed on her journey to do everything she could for her own sons, she felt compelled to help other families who often lacked the information and/or resources to implement and benefit from the types of interventions she had discovered. To fill this void, Jill spent much of her time counseling other parents on ways to help their kids and created paths for their success where none had previously existed.
In 2002, she co-founded and served as President of S.T.A.R. Parents, a proactive support group for parents who are Seeking Treatment and Recovery for their children with autism. The group, located in Charlotte, NC had more than 100 members. Jill continues to serve this community primarily online.
When it became obvious to Jill that her son with autism who was attending public school had very little encouragement or opportunity for peer interaction, she partnered with 2 other local moms to establish Verbal Behavior Inclusion program in the local public school system. Through trial and error and much collaboration between administrators, staff, and parents, in 2002 a successful program emerged.
As someone who was always in pursuit of good, solid information and strategies that could offer additional help for her sons, Jill attended several Defeat Autism Now! Conferences. In 2003, after collaborating with the coordinator of these conferences on a small local event in Charlotte, Jill was asked to serve as the Projects Director for the Defeat Autism Now! organization. Working side by side with the coordinator of these events (Maureen McDonnell, RN), Jill was intricately involved in planning the logistics, visiting and securing venues, inviting world renowned speakers, preparing the syllabus and marketing these events to parents, researchers, teachers etc. interested in learning what could be done to prevent and help their children improve and/or recover from autism.
As time passed, it became crystal clear that recovery from the disorders that plagued her children was possible, and Jill was seeing tremendous improvement in both boys. However, most insurance companies would not cover the cost of the vast majority of treatments and therapies that proved beneficial and effective, making them unrealistic for many families. To rectify this injustice, in 2008 Jill founded a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, Vital Interventions Accessible whose mission was to provide education and financial assistance to families of children with autism spectrum disorders and other chronic conditions. Jill served as Executive Director for that organization for 7 years.
In 2008, because of their mutual and strong desire to help prevent autism and other chronic illnesses affecting children, Jill and Maureen McDonnell (who had become great friends by this point) co-founded Saving Our Kids, Healing Our Planet. To launch this venture, they coordinated a conference for which they received the coveted Charlotte Business Journal Non-Profit Action Program of the Year Green Award. Their first 3-day green children’s health event took place at the Charlotte Convention Center with close to 1000 attendees. In In 2009, Jill and Maureen went on to organize another event in collaboration with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Then mayor, (now Senator) Corey Booker accepted the invitation to deliver their keynote address and with tremendous support from the city of Newark, Jill and Maureen worked to bring practical information on how to raise healthy kids in a toxic world to the poor and underserved families of that city. With over 30 speakers, entertainment, healthy food and exhibits focused on green living, the Newark SOKHOP program was a huge success.
In 2009, Jill was hired to serve as an Educational Advocate for kids with special needs, as well as a Service Advocate and Community Liason for adults with special needs through Easter Seals UCP. Although she loved serving in this capacity, her family’s needs at home began to require more of her attention. Because her autistic son’s needs were not being fully met in the public school, in 2011 she left her position with Easter Seals UCP to homeschool him for the following 4 years. With very high expectations and a rigorous curriculum, he graduated high school on time, with straight A’s.
She currently resides near Charlotte, NC with her husband Lee, son Jackson, daughter Emily, Dash the Basset, and Bo the Puppy.
As an active parent advocate and having had tremendous success in addressing many of her own sons’ symptoms of autism and ADHD, Jill continues to inspire and share her passion of hope for families facing the challenges that come with autism and other special needs.