GVSU’s SAAC to host 2nd annual Anchor Awards

Louis Ricard

The Grand Valley State Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC) is hosting the second annual Anchor Awards Celebration on Thursday, April 12, at 8:30 p.m. 

The event is designed to recognize the achievements of GVSU student athletes while fundraising for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Last year, the Anchor Awards generated around $4,500, bumping the SAAC’s fundraising effort to $10,000 for the first time in over four years. 

But the SAAC is much more than a fundraising organization: It is the voice of all GVSU student athletes. 

“GVSU SAAC committee is made up of student athletes assembled to provide insight on the student athlete experience and offer input on the rules, regulations and policies that affect student athletes’ lives on campus,” said Erika Wallace, GVSU associate athletic director.

Established in 2001 at GVSU, the SAAC has been working closely with the athletic department to ensure that student athletes enjoy their experience to the fullest. According to Wallace, the committee helps provide feedback and insight into athletic department issues, build a sense of community within the athletics program involving all athletic teams, and organize community service with the kids. 

“We’re making a big difference,” said Adrienne Kihn, SAAC president. “I’ve seen what we’ve done with Make-A-Wish. I’ve met some of the kids, and we are doing great things. We are a great way to bring the athletic department as a whole, so it’s a great way to give back to the program that’s given us so much.” 

According to Kihn, the GVSU SAAC struggled to hit its goal of fundraising $10,000 in the past. Since the launch of the Anchor Awards, the committee has reached that goal once already and is on pace to reach it again this year. 

In previous years, the committee hosted a talent show where they auctioned gear to get as much money as they could. The show did not generate enough money, and the SAAC struggled to find a way to replace it until one of its members—Matt Williams—went to a national SAAC convention. 

According to Williams, several schools had launched their own version of the Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Awards (ESPYs), a national event designed to recognized professional athletes’ accomplishments. GVSU decided to start its own event, calling it the Anchor Awards. 

“The SAAC e-board does all of the planning by splitting duties,” Wallace said. “For example, someone is responsible for decorations, someone is on food, others are on registration and payments.”

Once the coaches submit their nominations, the SAAC e-board narrows it down based on the description of the award and proceeds to vote. 

“Last year, it took us two four-hour meetings because we wanted to be super fair, so we gave everyone a chance,” Kihn said.

The awards are fairly similar to the ESPYs, including a player of the year award, a team of the year award, among others. However, some are original to GVSU, such as the senior-legacy award for example, one of the most difficult to vote on, according to Kihn. 

Last year, the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted 450 wishes thanks to the GVSU SAAC $10,000 contribution. This year, Kihn hopes to be able to grant at least as many wishes, but the main goal is to reach that same amount of money for a second year in a row. 

Although fundraising is one of the main focuses of the committee, its student athletes’ well-being is a top priority. Kihn and her e-board hosted the first Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) training session this year with more than 300 student athletes in attendance. The goal is to help athletes with suicide prevention and in recognizing the symptoms before it’s too late. 

According to Kihn, mental health is a big issue for student athletes, and the SAAC is finding new ways to tackle this problem. Next year’s project is to have a simulation training for all student athletes attending GVSU. 

The GVSU committee has helped the university with initiatives and projects that help maintain the level of success the university is striving for athletically. However, the SAAC’s success off the field, court or anywhere, for that matter, is just as important. 

The Anchor Awards will be located at the Fieldhouse Arena on Thursday, April 12. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. and tickets are $15 per person.