Former Portland Trail Blazers center Chris Dudley continues to help the Oregon community long after his playing days have passed. In a recent piece from Kerry Eggers, the Oregon sportswriter shined a light on Dudley’s philanthropy and his annual basketball camp for kids with type 1 diabetes, which will be held next week in Vernonia, Oregon from July 31 to Aug. 5.
A 6-foot-11 center known for rebounding and defense during his NBA career from 1987 to 2003, Dudley is one of only two men to ever play in the NBA with diabetes. Starting in 1996, he’s been running the Chris Dudley Basketball Camp in Oregon for 27 consecutive years. The weeklong, overnight camp is the only of its kind for kids with type 1 diabetes.
Eggers wrote Dudley — who played for Portland from 1993 to 1997 and again from 2001 to 2003 — started the camp because there was a lack of education around playing sports with diabetes.
Through the early part of his playing career, Dudley often received letters and other correspondence from kids with diabetes and their parents. With questions like, “How do you play basketball with type 1?” And, “What do you do on game day?” And, “What kind of insulin do you use?”
“I began to realize there was a strong need for a camp like ours,” Dudley say. “As we started, the diabetes component was huge, the basketball component was huge. But we soon realized another component was the development of a sense of community — a chance for kids with diabetes to know other kids are dealing with the same issues as they are. It can be difficult to have something different like diabetes. It is linked to a higher rate of depression.”
After the camp was held via Zoom the previous two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, campers will be on-site again this year. The camp — for boys and girls aged 10 to 17 — is an expensive, full-scale production. Along with the 75 campers, Eggers said 42 employees will be stationed at the camp, including 15 counselors, multiple doctors and nurses, a dietician and other positions. The facility in Vernonia has five basketball courts and past years have showcased special guest speakers like former Blazer Brian Grant.
For 27 years, Dudley, has given the operation his full attention.
Dudley is not just a namesake for the camp.
“Chris is the biggest ‘kid’ out there,” says Joey Wakem, executive director of the Chris Dudley Foundation. “Camp is the highlight of his year. In many other camps run by current or retired players, the headliner is usually there a few times throughout the week for a limited time. Chris is there all week.
“He stays overnight, has meals with the campers, hangs out with them at free times and really gets to know them. I am always amazed when I talk to him about a camper sometime throughout the years; he knows exactly who I’m speaking about. This is not just a ‘camp’ to him; this is family.”
In the piece, Eggers wrote highly of Dudley’s character and other charity works.
Dudley, 57, wasn’t just a professional athlete. He is an Ivy Leaguer, a graduate of Yale. In 1994, he created the Chris Dudley Foundation, intended to improve the lives of diabetic children. In 1996, he donated $300,000 through the “I Have a Dream Foundation” to help cover college tuition for a class of fourth-graders at Portland’s Vernon Elementary School. That same year, Dudley won the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, given for outstanding service and dedication to the community. As a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, I’m proud to say I was the one who nominated “Duds” for the honor.
Following his NBA career, Dudley has worked as a wealth management partner at Filigree Advisors since 2008. In 2010, he ran for governor of Oregon as a Republican, but lost the election.
His family still owns a home in Sisters, Oregon.