The Saginaw Valley State University community will compete in the 16th annual Battle of the Valleys competition to support a non-profit that focuses on prevention, education and support for people who have been affected by suicide in the Great Lakes Bay Region.
The Barb Smith Suicide Resource and Response Center, formerly known as Survivors of Suicide, was founded by Barb Smith almost 30 years ago after her brother lost his life to suicide.
Cheyenne Wilton, a creative writing major from Ortonville and the 2018-19 philanthropy chair for SVSU's Student Association, said they chose to partner with the non-profit because of the dedication and passion Smith and the organization show.
“They truly care so much about what they're doing, and with suicide being a leading cause of death for college students, we felt it was extremely important to support a cause so dedicated to preventing suicide and helping people with these thoughts, as well as their families,” Wilton said.
“Barb Smith has dedicated her entire adult life to this cause and has built an amazing team and foundation with the ultimate goal of saving lives.”
Smith educates both students and adults on how to prevent suicide for oneself and for others, and has worked with SVSU’s Department of Nursing to integrate health and behavioral health. She also provides support to people who have been suicidal or have lost a loved one from suicide through both group and individual sessions.
The Saginaw-based organization received a Hero Award for America & Me in 2013, based upon an essay written by an 8th grade student at Pinconning Middle School whose family had received support from Smith.
The student wrote: “I have noticed a big change in my family. They were beginning to do more, and getting out of the house. Suicide is heart-breaking, but with the help of Barb, we healed, and we hoped to spread awareness, because it’s okay to ask for help.”
SVSU and Grand Valley State University have engaged in an annual charitable fundraising competition since 2003. SVSU has currently won the last 10 years in a row and has won 12 of the 15 years overall.
Between SVSU and GVSU, the universities have raised a combined total of $601,282 since the competition started in 2003, SVSU has contributed $389,444 of that total, including last year's amount raised of $32,115 for the Mustard Seed Shelter in Saginaw.
This year's Battle of the Valleys competition will begin on Sunday, October 21 with fundraising events held all week until the final results are announced during the football game on Saturday, October 27 at SVSU's Harvey Randall Wickes Memorial Stadium.
For more information on Battle of the Valleys, please visit www.svsu.edu/battleofthevalleys/.
For more information on the Barb Smith Suicide Resource and Response Network, please visit www.suicideresourceandresponse.net.