LITTLE CURRENT—What better way to start out Manitoulin Country Fest week than a romantic dinner cruise under the stars while being entertained by one of country music’s hottest acts, and all the while helping to support an important cause. This year that cause was near and dear to the musician providing the music and the sponsors.
George Canyon has lived most of his life in the shadow of Type 1 diabetes, but he has spent a lifetime and much of his career shining a light to chase away that darkness and he jumped at the chance to put his musical talents towards furthering the cause by providing entertainment aboard for the dinner cruise.
Sudbury Hyundai dealer Meredith Morris has sponsored the Little Current Lions Haweater Weekend at the platinum level, is a founding platinum sponsor of the Manitoulin Pride Week and is celebrating her third year of sponsoring the Manitoulin Country Fest Fundraiser Dinner Cruise in partnership with Chris Blodgett, whose North Channel Cruise Lines vessel Le Grand Heron plays host to the dinner cruise each year.
“When I originally came to the Island and built a home here, I thought the dinner cruise fundraiser was a great idea,” said Ms. Morris. She immediately got on board with the concept. “How could you go wrong? You get to wine and dine under the stars and support a great cause, and listen to some great country music.”
Since her arrival on Manitoulin, Ms. Morris reckons she has brought about a million dollars into the community in investments and contributions.
Ms. Morris said it isn’t really about the exposure of doing good in the community that drives her. “You really should put something into the community as a good citizen,” she said, still “It was a little hurtful to read in the paper that a local town councillor thought that I ‘added nothing to the community.’ You would think they would do a little better homework before they said something like that about someone.”
Ms. Morris said that she intends to keep on supporting great causes in the community.
Mr. Blodgett said that although every year’s beneficiary of the musical dinner cruise has been worthy, sponsoring this year’s event was particularly heartfelt for him. “My dad was diagnosed with Type I diabetes when he was 34 and my brother was diagnosed when he was 19,” he said. “I have been lucky. My brother has always been rooting for me to join the club,” laughed Mr. Blodgett. “This all hits pretty close to home. Diabetes has been a part of the lives of the people I love.”
Mr. Blodgett’s company runs the execution of the dinner cruise, supplying the crew, the vessel and the meal for the event.
“Last year we supported the Manitoulin Special Olympics with Community Living Manitoulin, before that it was the Manor (Manitoulin Centennial Manor),” he said. “It really is a great way to kick off Manitoulin Country Fest Weekend.”
Mr. Blodgett held out high praise for Manitoulin Country Fest organizer Kelly Timmermans as well. “I don’t know how she does it, but she manages to convince some of the biggest names in country to come on board and donate their talents for the cause,” he said. “We couldn’t do this without the artists.”
There were 100 people aboard the cruise this year, but the event actually sold out by Christmas. “We thought we should maybe put it out there so people could buy tickets for Christmas,” said Mr. Blodgett. It turned out to be an inspired decision. In the end, the dinner cruises sell out in record time.
“We will do this as long as KT (Kelly Timmermans) asks us to,” said Mr. Blodgett.