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June 26, 2020

Navigating substantial obstacles, SVSU students move forward with annual fundraiser; beneficiary announced

BOV 2019For the second year in a row, Saginaw Valley State University students demonstrated determination to support their community and will organize a long-standing fundraiser to benefit others, despite major hurdles.
SVSU’s student government – known as Student Association – today announced it selected the Bay Area Women’s Center as the community benefactor of Battle of the Valley, an annual student-run fundraiser that has raised $652,385 for nonprofits across the state since 2003. 
“With everything going on in the world, people can feel hopeless,” said Olivia Nelson, the Student Association philanthropy chair and lead organizer of this year’s event. “With Battle of the Valley, we want to empower and uplift people by giving them a chance to make a positive difference.” 
Plenty of obstacles could have derailed this year’s fundraiser, but students were resolved to keep the community-engaging SVSU tradition alive, she said. While dates and other details remain unknown, Nelson and her peers are committed to organizing the event during the 2020-21 academic year. 
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic that ended in-person classes at SVSU and other universities in March, the Student Association organized its exhaustive search for a beneficiary largely without meeting in person. More than 40 nonprofits applied to benefit from the fundraiser this year. 
“The Bay Area Women’s Center stood out right off the bat in their application,” said Nelson, a psychology major from Highland. “I could see the passion coming through in their words.” 
The Bay City-based nonprofit offers crisis intervention, advocacy services and safe haven to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. 
“They deal with issues that are relevant today,” Nelson said. “So many people end up in situations where they could use the kind of services offered there. We want to support that.” 
For much of the SVSU fundraiser’s history, there was a competitive element. SVSU and Grand Valley State University annually raised money for each institution’s selected beneficiary, with the winning student population earning temporary possession of a trophy. The competition was scheduled during the week leading up to the football game between the two universities. 
But after GVSU students pulled out of the competitionlast year, SVSU students last year re-imagined the event in fall 2019 as a fundraiser without a competitive element. SVSU raised $20,302 for The Rock Center for Youth Development in Midland last year.
Nelson said she hopes her peers are able to raise a similar amount for the upcoming Battle of the Valley. Doing so will involve navigating new hurdles because of the pandemic. 
SVSU plans to resume in-class teaching in August. Many aspects of student life will look different, making it more challenging to raise funds, Nelson said. Student leaders still hope to center the week-long fundraiser around an SVSU sporting event. Student Association is remaining flexible on the dates because decisions regarding NCAA sports at the Division II level have yet to be made. 
“We don’t know what’s going to happen with the football season, but if that doesn’t happen, we may hold it in the basketball season during the winter,” Nelson said. 
“And, if that doesn’t happen, we will still figure something out. Our goal is to have the fundraiser involve face-to-face interactions, but we are going to do everything possible to keep people safe. We are going to follow the university’s guidelines on safety in a way that we can still make connections.” 
As in years past, there will be some elements of the fundraiser hosted online, she said. Nelson hopes Battle of the Valley will retain many of its traditions including a date auction and an event that allows participants to pay money to smash a junk vehicle. 
In total, SVSU has raised $445,959 for nonprofits as part of the annual event since 2003. GVSU from 2003-18 raised $226,728. 
A complete list of the year-by-year funds raised and nonprofit beneficiaries is available at