Peoria youth learn about making healthy choices

By Marshanna Hester

July 18, 2013 Updated Jul 18, 2013 at 10:43 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Carl Cannon, or C.O., as these kids call him is a man on a mission.

It's a mission that challenges youth to dare to be different and not be who they see on television.

By making them look in the mirror, Cannon said there is hope each child will grow to accept themselves the way they are and be accepting of others.

"It's about co-existing, it's about the land of America," said Cannon, who is the founder of the E.L.I.T.E. Youth Outreach Program. "It's about a country that was created that can encompass everyone and all. It's about people wanting tolerance."

"He makes me feel good about myself," said 10-year-old Kahlia McCormick. "When he talks he makes me not feel scared."

Kahlia McCormick was among a large group of nine to 12-year-olds who listened to Cannon share his message of respect Thursday afternoon at the Hult Health Center for Healthy Education.

The students are part of the Healthy Heroes camp funded by the United Way, encouraging them to make healthy choices.

Cannon said that can be challenging in society if people profile them the wrong way.

That's what many believe happened to Trayvon Martin.

"Zimmerman had a choice. Trayvon didn't," Cannon said. "Police told him to back up and he didn't. It could've been avoided. So I've got to educate our youth that there's some of that mindset. It's not prevailing, it's not across the board."

The jury's not guilty verdict disappoints Cannon.

But he believes Zimmerman would make the right choice to get back in his car if the situation could be re-played.

Because it can't, Cannon said now is the time to be encouraged and instill a new mindset in those who hold the key to the future.