October 7, 2021
While Saginaw Valley State University came out on top of Battle of the Valleys, nonprofit organizations in Midland and Grand Rapids were the big winners of the yearly fundraising competition.
At the end of the intense weeklong fundraising competition with Grand Valley State University, SVSU held on to the trophy and presented the Children’s Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region a check for $41,765.58. The Children’s Grief Center provides a healing environment for children, teens and their families grieving a death. The Center provides peer support at group gatherings for children and families in Midland, Bay City and Saginaw.
SVSU Student Association presented the check to the Children’s Grief Center during the SVSU-GVSU football game Saturday. Oct. 2. The home game’s final score was 49-17 in Grand Valley’s favor.
“It was really rewarding to spearhead Battle this year,” said Josie Koenigsknecht, a communication major from Fowler who co-chaired the initiative with Madeline Lowry, a rehabilitative medicine major from Lake Orion. “Seeing the passion from the community – both on campus and in the surrounding communities – was amazing!”
Camille Nitschky, executive director of the Children’s Grief Center, was appreciative of the work the SVSU Student Association did to make Battle of the Valleys a success.
“We have been honored to be the beneficiary this year,” Nitschky said. “Being part of this incredible team ― the Student Association, planning, being on campus to do outreach and create awareness about who we are ― has been an experience we will cherish. Most importantly someone may have learned about our mission and that we are here to support them in their grief and that they are not alone. That’s really the most important thing of all.
“Thank you to all the students, student organizations, the Greek communities, our amazing SVSU interns, and all the businesses who supported this wonderful event with their time, talents and treasure. We’re here to stay and Battle of the Valleys was just the beginning of the great things we can do together.”
Koenigsknecht also praised the Children’s Grief Center for its involvement.
“The Children’s Grief Center was at every event, which was great to see. They really engaged with our students and invited them to volunteer at the Children’s Grief Center meetings, and they now have a long list of potential volunteers.”
Nitschky and her team valued the opportunity to participate. “We loved being part of the everyday outreach on campus. Being able to share our mission with students, pass out our little heart pins and witness the engagement of the entire student body in raising awareness and funds for our grief center was amazing.”
She said the Center will use the funds to directly support the groups in Bay City, Midland and Saginaw, and also to purchase supplies and to provide onsite peer support school grief groups, including a group at SVSU, for students who have experienced a death. Further, the funds will help the Center meet a matching grant of $100,000 from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation.
Battle of the Valleys harnesses the friendly rivalry between SVSU and GVSU to raise funds for charitable organizations in each university’s respective community. After GVSU stepped down from the competition in 2019, SVSU continued the fundraising initiative as “Battle of the Valley.” In 2021, GVSU re-joined the competition, and the friendly rivalry was back in action.
This year, SVSU’s fundraising total eclipsed the total of the last two years combined. This was the 14th year that SVSU won the competition, which began in 2003. In 2019 and 2020, SVSU held its own fundraising effort because GVSU had withdrawn from the competition.
Koenigsknecht suspects Grand Valley’s re-entry into the competition may be part of the reason for this year’s outstanding success.
"We had a huge jump from last year,” she said, “which may be because Grand Valley is back in the competition and more students are back on campus.”