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October 30, 2018

SVSU students win 'Battle,' raise $36,000 for suicide awareness and prevention

Saginaw Valley State University students continued to demonstrate their commitment to support community causes by raising $36,210 in one week during the annual Battle of the Valleys fundraising competition.

The funds will help the Barb Smith Suicide Resource and Response Network expand its evidence-based suicide awareness training sessions in the community and on college campuses, said the organization's executive director Barb Smith.

“The funds will allow our organization to grow and build our existing programs throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region and statewide that help to promote mental wellness, decrease the numbers of suicides and be here to support those who have lost someone to suicide,” Smith said.

The $36,210 was raised during the annual fundraising competition between SVSU and Grand Valley State University. Each year, both institutions select a nonprofit partner, then spend one week collecting donations for those respective organizations.

“It’s very heartwarming to see our student body come together and to spend their time and money to support this cause and to do it for nothing in return except helping others,” said Cheyenne Wilton, a creative writing major from Ortonville and this year’s Battle of the Valleys chairperson.

“Personally, I worked on this for the past six months, so it’s very rewarding to see this level of generosity. It shows we care about what’s going on in our community.”

Craig Voorheis, president of the board of directors for the Barb Smith Suicide Resource and Response Network, was impressed by the dedication of SVSU students.

"Not only is the money greatly appreciated, but the awareness and suicide education that took place this past week is monumental. You can't put a price on that,” he said. “We look forward to working with SVSU to continue the awareness and education well beyond ‘battle’ week.”

This year's Battle of the Valleys week began Sunday, Oct. 21 at SVSU with a kickoff celebration featuring food, music and games.

Throughout the week, fundraising activities included a dodgeball tournament, an ice cream social and a bowling night at Stardust Lanes in Saginaw Township.

The winner of the competition was announced Saturday, Oct. 27 during halftime of the football game between SVSU and GVSU at SVSU's Harvey Randall Wickes Memorial Stadium.

“The greatest moment came when I walked onto the SVSU football field with many of the SVSU students and fans that were supporting us,” Smith said. “It brought tears to my eyes to have the opportunity to experience their energy as they anticipated hearing the amount announced, as they had been working hard all week to win this competition for us.”

GVSU students collected $14,915 for their Replenish Student Food Pantry fund, which provides food to their students facing food insecurity.

Between SVSU and GVSU, the universities have raised a combined total of $652,385 since the competition started in 2003. SVSU has contributed $425,657 of that total.

The university raising the largest sum of money during each Battle of the Valleys competition claims ownership of a 3-foot-tall trophy known as "Victoria" until at least the next year's rematch. Victoria has remained at SVSU since 2008. Of the 16 Battle of the Valleys competitions, SVSU students outraised GVSU during 13 of those years.

When looking back on the past week, Smith said she will be forever grateful that the Barb Smith Suicide Resource and Response Network was chosen as this year's beneficiary.

“This week definitely demonstrated SVSU is half the size but twice the heart,” Smith said. “I was not only proud, but honored to be with this next generation of young adults who represent our future.”