Dreaming Despite Diabetes: Canadian country music star George Canyon visits Rutledge’s Camp Kudzu
Story and pictures
by Kathryn Schiliro
Award-winning country music stars, especially those from Canada, don't come to Morgan County all too often.
Last Tuesday was an exception.
George Canyon, an award-winning Canadian country music star, visited Camp Kudzu—a week-long summer camp for children with juvenile diabetes—held at Rutledge's Camp Twin Lakes, for the day last week.
Diagnosed with juvenile diabetes himself when he was a teenager, Canyon, in addition to making country music, has taken it upon himself to visit children with juvenile diabetes and inspire them to overcome their illness to accomplish their dreams.
In addition to speaking, Canyon played some of his songs for the group of more than 170 children.
Then he signed autographs and took pictures. And signed more autographs. And took more pictures. And signed more autographs. And took more pictures.
different path, same journey
A camper for the day, Canyon made an effort to show the children how he has dealt with having diabetes, oftentimes pulling out his insulin pump to demonstrate how like them he is and, ultimately, how his diabetes didn't keep him from achieving what he set out to do.
"One of the big messages within my talk is 'follow your dreams,'" Canyon said. "Do not listen [when people say] because you have diabetes, you can't do this."
Diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age 14, Canyon had planned on being an Air Force pilot. Told he couldn't because of the diabetes, he elected to pursue medicine, then music. Following a stint on "Nashville Star," a USA Network/Country Music Television (CMT) TV show, six years ago, Canyon's rise to fame started with his debut "One Good Friend," which went to Number 1 on the Canadian Country Soundscan Charts in its first week.
Two Juno Awards, eight Canadian Country Music Awards and multiple chart-topping singles later, Canyon is a household name in the Great White North and is gaining notoriety in the United States as well.
When he was diagnosed, Canyon had no one to look to—he is trying to be that inspiration.
"It's important for me to get out and talk to these kids," Canyon said.
"It reinforces what we're all about—education, inspiration and empowerment," Alex Allen, the camp's executive director, said of Canyon's visit.
can-do at camp kudzu
In its 11th summer, Camp Kudzu will serve 525 children this year. Last week's session saw 173 campers; a previous session, 169; and the third session, in August, should see 183, according to Allen.
In addition to the children, 110 volunteers "give up a week of their life" and attend the camp, Allen said.
Founded in 2000 by medical professionals and a group concerned with the state of juvenile diabetes—Dr. Steve Anderson, Dr. Inger Hansen, Karen Carlson, Dorothy Jordan and Allen—the camp started with 96 children and has grown each year. In fact, there is still a waiting list, Allen said.
The cost to attend camp is $700—a $50 registration fee and $650 camp fee—but "money is not an object," and there are scholarships available.
"There are 5,000 children in Georgia 18 and under with diabetes," Allen said. "Diabetes camp is the best place to learn diabetes coping skills."