GVSU fraternity pledges $50k for companion dogs
With over 1,300 miles to travel, the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity embarks on a mission to Chicago with a check that could benefit thousands of lives.
The donations provide four-legged companions a home with people in need of daily assistance.
On Feb. 23, Grand Valley State University’s chapter of Alpha Sigma Phi will start collecting funds for Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). In the Kirkhof Center, there will be treats for people for sale and puppies for students to meet.
After the winter semester, the fraternity will travel on a week-long bike trip to donate the money in-person. This will be the 22nd year the event takes place.
Samuel Nathan, GVSU senior and facilitator of the event, said the fraternity raised $34,000 for the 2015 bike trip. He said the goal was around $40,000 last year.
For 2016, the goal has increased to $50,000.
“We raised over $200,000 for the past 21 years,” Nathan said. “We are completely self funded and pledge to bike from here to Chicago in hopes of receiving donations. It’s an amazing event, because everyone on campus does something to get involved.”
The nonprofit organization provides highly trained assistance dogs to people in need, free of charge. CCI is funded through private donations.
In total, four types of dogs are trained to master over 40 specialized commands. Over 4,000 assistance dogs have been placed around the country by CCI.
Nathan said the organization has been the strongest philanthropy mission and commitment of the fraternity for over two decades. For 2016, he said 25 to 30 members of Alpha Sigma Phi will take part in the trip.
The bike route is complex, but the destination cities for each night include: Bear Lake, Michigan, St. Ignace, Michigan, Escanaba, Michigan, Green Bay, Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Libertyville, Illinois and St. Joe, Illinois.
“This is roughly an eight-day trip,” said Sam Showerman, member of Alpha Sigma Phi. “Each brother is required to raise at least $750 to go on the trip.”
The donation ceremony, set up by CCI on the seventh day of the trip is an emotional experience, Showerman said. The organization provides cake and food, while over a dozen puppies attend the event to show where the money is donated.
“Last year, when we gave them that big check everyone freaked out,” he said. “People attended from the headquarters and from all around the country. It was pretty amazing.
“My favorite part about the trip is that it gets pretty emotional when we finally arrive.”
Although the trip is a beneficial experience, Showerman said the most difficult part is planning the logistics. Each destination must be made on time, as each participant typically rides at least 400 miles.
One mistake in plans could mean trouble for the bikers.
“Logistics of the trip are the worst part,” Showerman said. “You have to set up when you will be to each stop, it can be stressful to plan. The second part is when we can’t be on bikes, we have to cram into a van.
“We love spending time together, but of course we’d rather be outside on the bikes.”
Nathan said Loose Spokes Bike Shop in Grand Haven, Michigan is the largest sponsor for the event. Other current supporters include: Family Fare, Kustom Dezins Embroidery and Seaway Painting.
To donate to the Alpha Sigma Phi bike trip, visit www.bit.ly/1Sgbf4o.