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Ben Vereen bringing diabetes awareness program to local schools

Actor Ben Vereen speaks during an event at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on August 8, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Ben Vereen, the Tony Award-winning Broadway legend, found out he had Type 2 diabetes a decade ago, yet he is starring in two TV shows, developing a Broadway musical, optioning an Indy movie and aiming to bring his children’s arts program to Chicago Public Schools — all while continuing to sing at concerts nationwide.

How does the 70-year-old entertainer who survived a 1992 near-fatal car wreck deal with taking insulin on schedule, eating healthy and enjoying the greatest success of his career?

Vereen said it was tough at first.

“All sorts of horrors come into your mind,” he said, such as liver and heart problems and even limb amputation.

“Some people look at (a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis) as a death sentence,” he said.

But, as Vereen has learned, they’re wrong.

“Take your medication, check your blood sugar levels, change your eating habits and find exercise and a lifestyle that’s right for you,” he said.

“Your body is the garden of the Most High Creator. I place you in the garden,” he said. “You can give your body-temple the highest respect, as it so deserves. You can do it.”

Vereen said he loves helping people realize their potential – after all, it’s right there waiting to be actualized. He will give his message to the American Diabetes Association Expo on April 8 at McCormick Place convention center.

For Vereen, it’s a homecoming. As a Chicago resident, he assembled a group of students in the early 1990s to promote the arts and education in schools throughout the region. Now, he said he is in talks to bring his “Wellness Through the Arts” program to Chicago Public Schools. The wellness program helps kids express and heal themselves by making artworks dealing with issues such as bullying and low self-esteem.

He’s realizing a personal best, too, winning acclaim for starring in “Sneaky Pete” on Amazon and “Making History” on FOX.

With both the arts and healthcare funding endangered by President Trump’s budget proposal, Vereen sees a newly critical need for people to help each other, whether at church or in community groups, to deal with diabetes and other pressing needs.

“We have the power to heal one another, if given the chance,” he said. “There are many trails to the top of the mountain, but only one mountaintop. Just get there.”