Following the Battle of the Valleys funds

GVL / Kevin Sielaff - The BOTV trophy is presented during halftime.  Grand Valley squares off against SVSU Nov. 14 in Allendale. The Lakers hold on and win with a final score of 24-17.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – The BOTV trophy is presented during halftime. Grand Valley squares off against SVSU Nov. 14 in Allendale. The Lakers hold on and win with a final score of 24-17.

Audra Gamble

Year after year, Grand Valley State University students hang their heads in shame after Saginaw Valley State University students obliterate the Lakers in the Battle of the Valleys charity competition. In 2015, SVSU raised more than twice as much money than GVSU did. But what happens to that money GVSU does manage to raise?

GVSU doesn’t just have a problem raising money for charity. In recent years, it has had a problem getting that money out to those who need it.

For the past two years, students at GVSU have donated money for Battle of the Valleys to the Laker Children’s Fund, an internal organization. Though the fund exists through GVSU, which is a nonprofit university, the fund itself is not a registered nonprofit organization.

The money raised for Battle of the Valleys goes into a GVSU account, but until recently, that’s where the money sat. In 2014, $7,022 was raised for the Laker Children’s Fund. In November of 2015, $12,031.29 was added to that total. According to Sean O’Melia, programming chair of the Laker Traditions Team, it has only been since this winter semester that any Battle of the Valleys money has reached an actual charity.

“(The money from last year) was waiting for a process to be established,” O’Melia said. “There wasn’t a process set up for anyone to apply. That was a problem.”

From 2014 to 2015, no local charity could apply to receive any of the money in the Laker Children’s Fund, which was meant to go to West Michigan charities that focused on helping children in some way. After the Battle of the Valleys fundraising wound down this past November, O’Melia and the Laker Traditions Team established an online form charities can fill out to request money from the fund. Before the form existed, there were no plans to distribute the money held in the Laker Children’s Fund.

“That money is still there. We are trying,” said LeaAnn Tibbe, associate director of student life. “This is all brand new for us, we’re trying to get everything in place, like who is going to control it. The money is out there, it’s available. It’s just in such an infancy form that we’re still trying to figure out the direction.”

The Battle of the Valleys efforts are entirely student-run, which O’Melia said contributed to the slow turnaround for money distribution.

“We raise all that money, and then we have to take a deep breath and evaluate how that process is going to work, making sure it’s a good system, all while finals are happening,” O’Melia said. “It would be nice to have another faculty member, but I don’t think that’s the direction it’s being taken by the faculty. It’s a student-run project, so I don’t blame (the faculty and staff) if they don’t want to focus on that.”

That lack of attention to the Battle of the Valleys effort is felt in every aspect of the event. Tibbe said she wonders every year if GVSU should even participate.

“Is it the right thing to continue with Battle of the Valleys?” Tibbe asked. “Our students just don’t really buy into it, and we do so much fundraising outside of it. We’re struggling with how (Battle of the Valleys) fits into our community.

“It’s really an uphill battle. If our students are not buying into, then why are we doing it? Is there something better for the resources, besides having to beg people for their money for something they’re not sure of?”

According to Tibbe, GVSU’s counterparts at SVSU have not been made aware that the Lakers’ future participation in the event is uncertain.

“Honestly, we’re still learning and trying to figure it out, how to make Battle of the Valleys successful,” Tibbe said. “If anyone has ideas, we’re happy to hear them.”

For now, O’Melia is focused on the money already raised for the Laker Children’s Fund. The first grant of $2,500 from the fund was given to Manna’s Meals, an organization that provides lunches to local students. Manna’s Meals was the first and only organization to apply for Laker Children’s Fund money so far.

O’Melia hopes more charities will request Laker Children’s Fund grants in the near future.

“The form is super easy,” he said. “It’s not hard to apply for the money now. If (a charity) wants $5,000 for a good cause, just fill out a two-page form.”

For those interested in requesting funds, the grant application is now available at