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October 17, 2018

Local nonprofit to benefit from SVSU students ‘battle’ to support suicide prevention

Smith, BarbSaginaw Valley State University students are committed to supporting community causes, and next week they will be raising funds to help a Saginaw-based nonprofit expand its prevention and training efforts to help people recognize and respond to signs of suicidal thoughts.

During the annual Battle of the Valleys fundraising competition, students at SVSU and Grand Valley State University capitalize on the schools’ football rivalry to see who can raise the most money for charity. This year, SVSU students will raise funds to benefit the Barb Smith Suicide and Response Network through a variety of events and activities Sunday, Oct. 21, through Friday, Oct. 26. 

The Saginaw-based nonprofit works tirelessly to prevent suicide, educate communities and provide no-cost, 24/7 aftercare for those affected when prevention is not possible, said Barb Smith, the organization's founder and executive director.

“Suicide is the leading cause of death for college and university students between 18 and 24,” Smith said. “If we think about what puts someone at risk, we're talking sleep deprivation, possibly alcohol and other substances, anxiety and not a lot of support.”

Smith founded the nonprofit 30 years ago, and over the next three decades, grew it into a meaningful and effective nonprofit in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

“We started 30 years ago as a grassroots organization and focused mostly on the aftercare of suicide,” Smith said. “Since then, we've really moved forward – and quite quickly in the last couple years – to focus equally, if not more, on prevention efforts.”

Last year, SVSU students raised more than $32,000 for the Mustard Seed Shelter in Saginaw. With the funds raised through the 2018 Battle of the Valleys, Smith plans to expand the organization's evidence-based suicide awareness training sessions in the community and on college campuses.

“We can keep training, but we need the staff to support those efforts,” Smith said. “It would be really nice to have a general fund that we can use to help coordinate large events throughout the year … to offer different trainers who come in and host special events to continue training at all levels.”

Smith said she hopes these training sessions will enable more students to recognize and to help when their peers are in crisis, both in college and as they enter the workforce.

Battle of the Valleys began in 2003, and over the past 15 years, the contest has generated $601,282 in charitable donations between the two universities. Donations can be made at campus fundraising events or through a donation link on SVSU's Battle of the Valleys website at between noon on Oct. 21 and midnight on Oct. 26.