GVSU Athletics gears up for Laker Blue Night

Steven Garber

The word “cancer” invokes the thought of serious and intensive treatment. Just reading the words likely puts the image of a loved one into your head.

The sight of family members saying they’ve been diagnosed with the disease can replay in the mind because the word carries such heavy weight. Most people have a story to share of a close friend or family member afflicted by cancer.

Saturday, Grand Valley State University wants the student body, faculty, alumni and all in attendance at the football game to show support for the fight against cancer while supporting the team. GVSU Athletics has challenged those in attendance to “Wear Blue and Button Up.”

GVSU intends to give students a greater sense of pride when they wear their Laker blue, knowing that the university is taking steps to fight the disease. A “Beat Cancer” button can be picked up at the ticket office or at the game for $3.

“We’re kind of stepping out of our realm within athletics and getting into a much larger issue,” said Doug Lipinski, the associate director of athletics for marketing. “It is more than just wearing blue and supporting the team. It’s something that people can rally behind because everyone’s been affected by it.”

As of this spring, plans were in the works to make the football program’s Laker Blue Night the first of what figures to be an ongoing tradition. Lipinski alluded to programs at the University of Michigan that work with Mott’s Children’s Hospital, and said GVSU needs a “main cause that people really gravitate to.”

Saturday’s football game against the University of Ashland (7-1) is the beta test for the unification of the “Beat Cancer” campaign and Laker Blue Night.

After observing the social media reaction and obtaining fan feedback, GVSU will evaluate how to effectively support the American Cancer Society with its efforts at future events. Lipinski said the hope is to build it as a tradition, starting first with the GV football Laker Blue Night.

“We want to do it so it has sustainability,” Lipinski said. “Laker Blue Night is us. So how can we make it something more than just our team wearing blue and encouraging our fans wearing blue? What else can we do? How can this become a tradition and really just a good thing to do?”

Free screenings, educational pieces by health care workers and spotlighting faculty or students currently fighting the disease are all possible elements to add to future events after GVSU evaluates the success of Saturday night’s fundraiser.

Although the campaign purposefully does not pick out any type of cancer, it’s a special one because it’s much more than showing school spirit for a football game and fetching financial support for a worthy cause.

“Why not put those together and have Laker Blue Night represent more than just school spirit, but to show that we are all one and that we can show a unified front against cancer,” Lipinski said.

“Cancer affects everybody in some way or the other,” he said. “This is very inclusive in what we’re trying to do. And, it goes back with why we came up with our hashtag of #ONEGV. There are a lot of different meanings to it. Inclusion is one of them.”