Businesses Go To Bat For March Of Dimes

May 8, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS – The date is set for the West Michigan Sports Awards, an annual benefit for the local March of Dimes. The 2001 event, the fourth consecutive, will take place on Monday, March 5, at The BOB.

Fifteen area teams and athletes will be honored this year, and all the event’s proceeds will go to the March of Dimes for its fight against birth defects and infant mortality. And, as in the past, the business community is being counted on to help make this year’s edition another successful affair.

“We’ve had the event for three years and the support has increased each year,” said Dave Kistler, a vice president with Michigan National Bank and chairman of the Greater Michigan Chapter of the March of Dimes.

The event, which features dinner, sports memorabilia and a live auction, is coming to The BOB for the first time. And through each of the three previous years, the event’s corporate support has grown as more companies have become involved.

“In essence, it’s a fundraiser for the March of Dimes and we try to raise awareness of the mission of the March of Dimes, which is to prevent birth defects and have healthy babies,” said Kistler.

“We get corporate support from sponsors, who kindly donate the awards for the event, but primarily through the purchase of corporate tables. A corporate table seats eight people and are $1,000 each,” he added. “Historically, we’ve had 10 to 15 corporations purchase these tables. It’s an opportunity to entertain clients, as well as network with other leaders in the business community.”

Kistler, who has been with the March of Dimes the last four years, said he hopes to sell 20 corporate tables this year.

The sports awards salute local athletes and teams at every level. High school and college male and female athletes-of-the-year are named, along with a player-of-the-year from each of the area’s minor league franchises.

“There isn’t any real public acknowledgement of athletes who are currently participating on the high school, college or professional level. So, I think that it’s a great event in that it spotlights people who deserve some recognition for their accomplishments on the field,” said Randy Cleves, communications chairperson for the event and director of media relations for the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Past area teams and athletes who have been honored include Cornerstone University’s national championship men’s basketball team; Chad Curtis of the Texas Rangers; Robert Fick of the West Michigan Whitecaps and Detroit Tigers; boxing king Floyd Mayweather Jr.; Rockford High’s cross-country champ Dathan Ritzenhein; NASCAR driver Jack Sprague; and longtime WOOD-TV8 Sports Director Warren Reynolds.

Although there isn’t a direct connection between the event and the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame, there is an indirect one. Some of those being honored this year could find themselves being inducted into the hall in future years.

“That happened last year,” said Cleves. “At our event, Warren Reynolds won the Lifetime Achievement Award, and he was honored by the Hall of Fame before his passing.”

The sports awards program is open to the public. All proceeds from ticket sales, corporate tables, sponsorships and program ads go to the March of Dimes. For more information, call 247-6861.

Cleves told the Business Journal that the March of Dimes wants to turn the West Michigan Sports Awards into one of it’s more reliable fundraising events.

“It’s still a pretty young event that they’re trying to grow and make into something big,” he said. “The national sports awards are held in Detroit and this is kind of a little offshoot of that. We’re just trying to make this a good fundraiser for the March of Dimes.”           

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