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Melissa Etheridge: For Kids’ Sake

It’s just another magical night in Hollywood. Melissa Etheridge – along with Sheryl Crow, Clint Black, Kelly Preston, John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John and other celebrities – is singing her heart out at a star-studded event in Los Angeles. But this isn’t some meaningless hoopla. This is a party with a purpose: It’s for kids’ sake.

The stars turned out in full force to benefit the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition (CHEC), a national non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public, specifically parents and caregivers, about environmental toxins that affect children’s health. Founded by Nancy and James Chuda after the death of their daughter, Colette, who died at age 5 from a rare non-hereditary form of cancer, CHEC’s mission is to provide information about preventable health and development problems caused by exposures to toxic substances in homes, schools and communities and to encourage the public to take action to protect children against these toxic threats.

Magnificent Melissa Etheridge-Raising Awareness, for Kids' SakeEtheridge, mother to Bailey and Beckett, was moved to join the organization and help spread the word about it after being introduced to it by CHEC board member Kelly Preston. “Something really important happens when you have kids,” Etheridge says. “It’s very deep, you really look at the world. There’s one thing about walking through the world, in your body and in yourself, but when you start seeing the world and your vulnerable children, you really start looking around. Kelly and CHEC had such vital information … and I was completely grateful to them.”

Living in Los Angeles, Etheridge notes that it’s easy to eat healthy and find organic foods, and she has been doing so for years. “There’s Whole Foods, and beyond that there’s even more intensely organic things than the Whole Foods chain, and it’s Wild Oats, and it just goes on and on,” Etheridge says. “They’re on every corner; it’s like 7-11s here. It is easy, and then the more educated you get about it the more you understand it. So I was sort of on that path, but just the knowledge that CHEC gave me – everything from carpeting to paint to playgrounds to plants to on and on and on.”

After reading CHEC’s material, Etheridge made some changes in her home. “I took out the wall to wall, and now I only have area rugs, and don’t walk on them with shoes,” she says. “That’s like the number one thing that brings the toxins in, is your own shoes from the outside world coming in on your own carpet. And you see your kids crawling around, and you’re like, ‘Oh, I get it.’ Once you have children, you kind of think that someone else is looking out for them and they’re not. And you start realizing that our American way is to make money and to get ahead and sometimes it’s at the expense of the health of our youngest.”

Etheridge notes that the most important thing a parent can do is get educated about the potential health hazards in the home so they can make positive changes. “CHEC has so much information readily available,” she says. “It’s easy information. It’s not pages and pages of this and that, it’s just, ‘Look for this ingredient,’ you know, ‘This was only tested on 6-foot white males, 200 pounds safe.’ And it’s just these points and common sense.”

To get started, CHEC offers an informative video called Not Under My Roof, starring Kelly Preston and Olivia Newton-John, which can be ordered from its educational Web site, The site also offers an interactive HealtheHouse that illustrates where the hazards may be in your own home.

Magnificent Melissa Etheridge-Raising Awareness, for Kids' SakeThese days, Etheridge, is busier than ever. Aside from her work with CHEC, she has a new DVD out titled Melissa Etheridge: Live … and Alone. “My DVD, which is a whole new thing for me, is a live film, DVD, of my solo performance that I did here in Los Angeles last year,” she says. “It’s just chock full of all kinds of stuff – more stuff that you ever wanted to know about me. It’s actually quite entertaining.”

The DVD came about by popular demands from her fans. “One of the largest requests I get is for myself live,” she says. “I think I’m best live and I think that my fans think that I am. And they’ve always wanted a live recording or videos or something. And the technology just came about the right time, the right stuff that we could film a show, and also film all kinds of backstage stuff.”

She is also in the studio recording a new album, which is due out later this year. Her book, a revealing autobiography titled The Truth Is … My Life in Love and Music, came out last year and was a bestseller.

With all that she has accomplished, Etheridge still feels that she is on a journey. “It’s very interesting on the dream front, in that I turned 40 … and I was like, ‘Look! You did it!’ But I find myself in the middle of my life. So the dream come true is great and cool and wonderful, and my goodness, I’m very fortunate and happy. But the true challenge is then to put the goals in front of me, to be in this moment to appreciate what I’ve done, yet be inspired to create and put new goals in front of me and be just the best person I can be.”

She notes that giving back, as she does with CHEC and other organizations, is the outward part of being a good person. Then there’s the inner journey. “I’m not a terribly religious or spiritual person. But I do get a feeling that one’s life is sort of this big blank paper that you can fill out, and at the end it’s like, ‘OK, this is what I did.’ And I get a strong feeling of more purpose now, where my goals and my energy and my journey before – my first half of my life – was very, ‘I want this success,’ and it was very I-driven. And now I have family, I have children, I have love, I have a sense of community and life, and it’s sort of a new inspiration to really make a difference. I appreciate my talents and my music and all that success, and now, what am I gonna’ do with it?”

Etheridge will continue to be involved to make a difference in the world, and she advises others to do the same. “The most important thing that one can do and the greatest difference one can make is in their own community,” she says. “That’s where it all starts, especially with health and environmental issues like this, it’s grass roots. Not only in your backyard, it’s in your house. And it’s information, education. And that’s where people make a difference – it’s yourself, your neighbor, your neighbor’s neighbor, your school, your community. Become informed first. And then from there, as your heart and your soul is moved to do. It might be, ‘You know what, I’m just going to make the changes as a consumer. I’m going to make my choice.’ And that, in America, pretty much speaks stronger than anything else other than a vote. ‘I’m not gonna’ buy that product because I know they have cut this corner and done that, and I’m gonna’ choose this guy who’s trying to be green and trying to make a difference.’ And tell your friends, too. That’s huge!”