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BigRapidsDailyNews : Breaking News

Bulldog Hockey wins shootout against Northern Michigan in final home game of the year

Ferris State University's Stepan Pokorny scored in the first round of the shootout and Noah Giesbrecht saved all three Northern Michigan attempts as the Bulldogs won their second shootout of the season Saturday (Feb. 24) in the Ewigleben Ice Arena.

The Bulldogs (10-21-2) played a tightly contested game against Northern Michigan that was tied 1-1 after the first three periods. When neither team scored in overtime, the Bulldogs had their second shootout of the year, winning it 1-0 in their final home game of the season.

Before the game, Ferris State honored 11 players for senior night. Those players were Logan SteinBen SchultheisDrew CooperAustin McCarthyJacob Dirks, Pokorny, Jason BrancheauNick HaleAntonio VenutoBrenden MacLaren and Giesbrecht.

Zach Faremouth scored the first goal of the game at 11:33 in the first period on the power play. Pokorny and Brancheau had the assists on Faremouth's second power play goal this year, giving the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead.

Northern Michigan tied the game at 1:59 in the second period. Rylan Van Unen scored with assists from Tyrell Boucher and Kevin Marx Noren, the final goal of the game.

Giesbrecht made 24 saves in regulation, while Northern Michigan goaltender Beni Halasz stopped 12 shots through the first 60 minutes. In overtime, Giesbrecht denied both Wildcat shot attempts and Halasz made five saves.

Grant Slukynsky was the first shooter in the shootout, and he was turned away by Giesbrecht. Pokorny went first for the Bulldogs and beat Halasz, giving FSU a 1-0 advantage in the shootout.

Matvei Kabanov went next, and he too was denied by Giesbrecht. Brancheau had a chance to win it for Ferris State in the second round, but Halasz made the save.

Mikey Colella was the last chance for Northern Michigan, but Giesbrecht stood tall for a third time in the shootout and won it for Ferris State.

Giesbrecht finished the game 26-27 and officially earned a tie. Halasz turned away 17-18 shots. 

Northern Michigan won 31 faceoffs compared to 25 for Ferris State. The Bulldogs went 1-3 on their power play tries and killed all four of their penalties.

The Bulldogs have one game remaining in the regular season. They will visit Lake Superior State University Friday (March 1) for a 7:07 p.m. (ET) puck drop against the Lakers. Pregame coverage will begin at 6:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunny 97.3 FM.

DuPont Scholarship boosts Ferris State Plastics Engineering Technology senior's bottom line ahead of career entry

Rockford native and Ferris State University Plastics Engineering Technology student Cameron Sawicki is the proud recipient of a $2,500 scholarship made available through a collaborative for industrial giant DuPont Tedlar and the Society of Plastic Engineers Foundation.  

Sawicki is a senior and said he will graduate this May with a Bachelor of Science degree, with a major in Plastics and Polymer Engineering Technology, accentuated by the excellence of resources and faculty in Ferris’ National Elastomer Center.

“Our program is very well rounded, as we work with the latest in injection molding technology in our labs, then learn to apply that knowledge through instruction from faculty with extensive industry experience,” Sawicki said. “I could not have asked for a better arrangement for my education and career intentions.”

Sawicki said Plastics Engineering was a field that came into focus in his high school days.

“I have to admit entering the program was something of a snap decision,” Cameron said. “I am so glad, as my choice of this degree path has exceeded all my expectations.”

The Plastics Engineering Technology curriculum is part of Ferris’ School of Design and Manufacturing in the College of Engineering Technology. Data gathered by the college notes PET graduate placement is near 100 percent. A recent group of graduates received salaries averaging $68,500 a year that were augmented by generous benefit plans and signing bonuses.

“I have received full-time job offers, but am still considering my options at this point,” Sawicki said.

PET program coordinator Tom Van Pernis, an associate professor, is a 2008 alumnus of the program. He said student recruitment requires more prospect education than in years past, owing to social media misinformation about the plastics industry and its active role in environmental stewardship.

“We are helping students understand they can be agents of positive change, by emphasizing sustainability in their service to the industry,” Van Pernis said. “There are many opportunities to work in the creation of industrial and commercial products, at starting salaries of $70,000 and beyond and Ferris graduates are ‘first choice’ candidates in their hiring processes.”

The DuPont Tedlar Scholarship that was awarded to Sawicki is part of a year-long emphasis to support studies in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Tedlar is a polyvinyl fluoride film that can withstand scuffs, stains, and harsher conditions, with applications ranging from protective clothing to industrial uses. The corporation and the SPE Foundation continue their collaboration in 2024 through targeted educational opportunities for Girl Scouts and students in the vicinity of Tedlar production plants in New York and Ohio.

Van Pernis said Ferris PET students Anthony Audia of Ionia and Ashley Dobbyn of Garden City also received SPE scholarships in the last granting cycle. 

Lions re-sign kicker Michael Badgley

The Detroit Lions announced today that they have re-signed K Michael Badgley. Contract terms were not disclosed.

Badgley returns for his third season in Detroit after converting four-of-four field goals (100.0%) and 13-of-15 extra points (86.7%) for 25 points scored in 2023. In the Wild Card Round vs. the Los Angeles Rams, Badgley tied a postseason franchise record by converting a 54-yard field goal.

Originally entering the NFL in 2018 with the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent out of Miami (Fla.), Badgley has appeared in games for the Los Angeles Chargers, Tennessee Titans, Colts, Chicago Bears and Lions over his six seasons. In 64-career games, he is 98-of-119 on field goal attempts (82.4%) and 168-of-175 on extra point attempts (96.0%) for 462 points scored.

Chorus, clamor, and our culture

The following was written by District 101 Representative Joseph Fox of the Michigan House of Representatives in response to Vice President Kamala Harris' visit to Grand Rapids regarding abortion access.


On Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris appeared in Grand Rapids to encourage supporters to keep fighting for abortion access and protections in Michigan. She cited the Dobbs decision from the Supreme Court – which turned over the authority to regulate abortion to the state governments – as proof that abortion is under siege. This makes sense if its legal status changes depending on the results of every election.

However, women have a right to an abortion that is guaranteed in Michigan’s Constitution – an addendum as of 2022. Federal laws and which party rules in Lansing do not matter: abortion access cannot be revoked. Abortion is in no legal danger in our state.

Why then does Harris portray abortion’s legal status as dire? The answer is clear: inciting voters to fight makes more political sense more than assuring them that they’ve won the fight already. Fearmongering produces more votes than facts.

Fighting for freedoms sounds so right to us Americans, and it should. It’s in our DNA. Our nation bears a rich history of men and women sacrificing to protect essential liberties and preserve them for future generations.

But the silent voices of unborn infants plead for the freedom to live, too, even if their chorus remains unheard, drowned out by the clamor of a culture in which those that shout the loudest will triumph. Odometers, not objective truth, outline who is right in the court of public opinion.

Thinking about life as a perpetual fight also begs another question: are we worth more as humans if we are willing to fight hard enough, or is our value fixed in something or someone outside ourselves? If we trust the words of Another, who lovingly made all of us, then we can finally rest in his decree. Apart from this our dignity will always be in jeopardy.

Mecosta County Sheriff's Office: Weekly Blotter (2/12 - 2/18)

Monday, February 12

  • At 5:10 P.M., deputies made a warrant arrest in Big Rapids TWP. A male subject was arrested on a warrant. He was lodged at the Mecosta County Jail. 

Calls for Service: 19


Tuesday, February 13

  • At around 2:30 P.M., deputies made a warrant arrest at a residence in Mecosta TWP. A male subject was arrested on a felony warrant. He was lodged the the Mecosta County Jail.

Calls for Service: 16

Traffic Accidents: 1


Wednesday, February 14

  • At 08:55 P.M., deputies made a warrant arrest at a residence in Fork TWP. A female subject was arrested on a warrant. She was lodged at the Mecosta County Jail.

  • At 1:40 P.M., deputies made a warrant arrest at a residence in Millbrook TWP. A male subject was arrested on a warrant. He was lodged at the Mecosta County Jail.

  • At 1:45 P.M., deputies made a warrant arrest in Big Rapids TWP. A male subject was arrested on a probation violation. He was lodged at the Mecosta County Jail.

Calls for Service: 32


Thursday, February 15

  • At 02:23 P.M., deputies responded to a domestic assault complaint, at a residence in Morton TWP. A male subject was arrested for domestic assault. He was lodged at the Mecosta County Jail. 

Calls for Service: 18

Traffic Accidents: 10

Car/Deer Accidents: 1


Friday, February 16

  • At 9:24 P.M., deputies made a warrant arrest at a residence in Millbrook TWP. A female subject was arrested on a felony warrant for MDOP. She was lodged at the Mecosta County Jail.

Calls for Service: 24


Saturday, February 17

Calls for Service: 15

Car/Deer Accidents: 2


Sunday, February 18

  • At 02:57 P.M., deputies responded to a domestic in Wheatland TWP. A male subject had assaulted his girlfriend.  After resisting officers and being tased, the male subject was arrested for domestic assault and resist /obstruct. He was lodged at the Mecosta County Jail.

Calls for Service: 7

Traffic Accidents: 1

Car/Deer Accidents: 2

Battling MS, medal-winning Ferris State alumna shines as a 2023 Meijer State Games of Michigan Athlete of the Year

Ferris State University graduate Andrea “Speedie” Hampton is a medal-winning fencer and softball player who competes from a wheelchair due to the ongoing impact of her multiple sclerosis.

Hampton is one of four people named 2023 Meijer State Games of Michigan Athletes of the Year. She is a medal-winning fencer and softball player who competes from a wheelchair as a result of the ongoing impact of her multiple sclerosis.

The Grand Rapids resident was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 26, and she still remembers that day with vivid clarity.

“I honestly had never heard of the disease,” she recalled recently. “When the doctors told me what I had, I was afraid, and I was angry. I remember I screamed a lot in my car the first day I was given the news.”

But, she added, she eventually was able to channel that anger in productive ways, including athletics.

Growing up in Grand Rapids and attending Ottawa Hills High School, sports had always been an important part of Andrea’s life.

“I have an older brother, and whatever he played, I wanted to play as well,” she said with a smile. “In high school, I played hockey and softball.”

In fact, it was hockey that first got her connected to Ferris State.

“I actually went to hockey camp a few times in middle school at Ferris,” she said. “I knew I wanted to go to Ferris when I was able to go to college.”

When she finally got to Big Rapids after graduating from Ottawa Hills, she studied Recreation Management Leisure Services and said she enjoyed her time in and out of the classroom.

“I enjoyed the atmosphere a lot,” she said. “I went to a lot of games, and I also played a few years of intramural sports.”

As she looks back, though, she also suspects that it was in college that her first MS symptoms began to appear.

“I didn’t pay much attention to it at that time,” she said. “I remember one time I was going to the bank, and I noticed that my walking was becoming harder for me to do. Also, we played games in one of my classes, and I noticed my running wasn’t the same.”

In May 2011, she received her diagnosis of relapsing-remitting and secondary progressive MS.

The National MS Society notes that relapsing-remitting is the most common disease course, with attacks followed by remission. Secondary progressive MS, it adds, follows the initial relapsing-remitting course and disability accumulates over time.

Hampton has seen that play out in real-time. She went from walking to walking with a cane, and now, the majority of her time, she uses a wheelchair to move around and get things done. She also just switched over to using hand controls for driving.

Sports have helped her in numerous ways, she said, as her disease progresses. And she extends a huge word of thanks to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital for its role in her athletic journey.

“They helped me regain my confidence with playing adaptive sports,” she said. “When I was first diagnosed with MS, one of the things that got me down was that I thought I was done playing sports.”

A chance encounter with the Griffins Youth Foundation’s sled hockey program and the Grand Rapids Griffins was the first spark that eventually fueled her full-scale entry into adaptive sports.

“The Griffins were at Belknap (Griff’s Icehouse at Belknap Park) and were going to play sled hockey with the Sled Wings, and for a dollar, I tried a sled for sled hockey,” she said. “I had the biggest smile on my face being back on the ice and just coasting around. One of the coaches noticed the smile and told me how I could participate in adaptive sports through Mary Free Bed Hospital, and I have been going strong with them in the sports world ever since.”

Going strong is an understatement.

At the Meijer State Games, she has won gold medals twice in fencing in the adaptive foil division. And in 2023, she also competed with able-body fencers and finished sixth in women’s foil and ninth in women’s epee. She also earned the Sportsmanship Award at the 2022 National Wheelchair Softball World Series in Chicago.

In honoring her as adult female athlete of the year, the Meijer State Games noted that “her continued vivacity for life and love of sports have allowed Hampton to adapt and find new avenues, have fun and stay active. She is known for being fearless, friendly and fun, and never lets her physical limitations define her.”

For her part, Hampton shrugs off such accolades.

In May 2024, she will mark her 14-year anniversary of having MS. A lot has changed in her life as a result, but, she said, she plans to keep moving as long as she can, a Ferris forward Bulldog.

Special promotions planned for final hockey regular-season home series this weekend

The Ferris State University men's ice hockey team will host the Northern Michigan Wildcats this weekend (Feb. 23-24) for the Bulldogs' final regular-season home series of the year at the Ewigleben Ice Arena.

The action gets underway on Friday night at 7:07 p.m. (ET) with Saturday night's finale slated for an early 5:07 p.m. (ET) start.

The opening contest of the weekend series on Friday will be Military Appreciation Night and all veterans along with active military members can purchase a ticket for $5 off the normal price by showing their military ID in person at the FSU Athletics Ticket Office.

The finale on Saturday will be Senior Night with Ferris State slated to honor 11 seniors prior to the contest. Fans are encouraged to arrive early with the senior ceremony slated to start early prior to game time. The Bulldogs will also hold a senior night recognition, which is open to the public, following the game across the hall inside Jim Wink Arena where the Bulldog seniors will be introduced in front of their families and friends.

Along with Senior Night, the Bulldogs will also celebrate Fan Appreciation Night on Saturday. Parking will be free on Saturday for all fans and several giveaways are also planned in conjunction with the evening tilt.

Fans can purchase digital tickets for all Bulldog home hockey games in advance to guarantee a seat by visiting

The FSU Athletic Ticket Office's normal business hours are Monday thru Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) with extended hours on Wednesday until 7 p.m. (ET). A complete pricing structure, ticket office hours and additional information is available online at and can be found by visiting the "tickets" tab. For additional ticket information, please call (231) 591-2888.

The Bulldog Sports Network and flagship radio station Sunny 97.3 FM will carry all of this weekend's action live with online coverage also available at Live video coverage will also be provided on a pay-per-view basis via CCHA TV on

Moolenaar honored by community health care providers

Congressman John Moolenaar has been awarded the Distinguished Community Health Center Advocacy Award by the National Association of Community Health Centers. The award was presented to Moolenaar by members of the Michigan Primary Care Association who work in community health centers in Michigan's Second Congressional District.

“I am honored to receive this award from our community health centers, who are an essential resource for Michigan families, especially in rural communities. I will continue my advocacy for them on the House Appropriations Committee so they can continue to provide vital health care services to residents for years to come,” Moolenaar said after receiving the award.

"Congressman Moolenaar is very deserving of NACHC’s Distinguished Community Health Center Advocate Award," said Frank Waters, Senior Director of Policy and Government Affairs of the Michigan Primary Care Association. "We are grateful for his steadfast support of community health centers and their mission to provide quality healthcare for all, particularly in underserved communities." 

Moolenaar is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.

Evart Police: Weekly Blotter (2/5 - 2/18)

Monday, February 5

  • Property Damage Accident – Officers were dispatched to investigate a two-vehicle property damage accident.

Tuesday, February 6

  • Nothing reported.

Wednesday, February 7

  • Nothing reported.

Thursday, February 8

  • Harassment – Officers were dispatched to a harassment complaint. The report has been sent to the Prosecutor for review.

  • Warrant Arrest – While investigating a complaint Officers had contact with a subject who had a warrant for their arrest. The subject was arrested and lodged on the warrant.

Friday, February 9

  • Power – Officers were dispatched for a down power line. Fire personnel arrived on scene and stood by until the down line was taken care of.

  • Property Damage Accident – Officers were dispatched to investigate a two-vehicle property damage accident.

Saturday, February 10

  • Structure Fire – Officers assisted Evart Fire Department on a possible fire call. After the fire department completed their investigation it was determined that there was no fire at a residence.

  • Civil – Officers were dispatched for a civil complaint. During the investigation one of the subjects complained of a medical issue and was transported to Reed City Hospital for treatment.

Sunday, February 11

  • Fail to Pay – Officers were dispatched for a fail to pay for gasoline. The incident remains under investigation.

Monday, February 12

  • Nothing reported.

Tuesday, February 13

  • Check Wellbeing – Officers dispatched to conduct a check wellbeing.
  • Fraud – Officers were dispatched to a local business for a counterfeit bill. The complaint remains under investigation.
  • Trespassing – Officers were dispatched to a possible trespassing complaint. Officers were advised someone reported a subject had been staying in an outbuilding of a local business. Officers searched the building and did not find the subject or any belongings inside the building.

Wednesday, February 14

  • Alarm – Officers assisted Osceola County Sheriff's Department with an intrusion alarm. The business was secure.
  • Warrant Attempt – Officers arrested an individual who had a warrant out of Osceola County. The subject was lodged at the Osceola County Jail on their warrant.
  • Criminal Sexual Conduct – Officers received a criminal sexual conduct complaint. The complaint remains under investigation.
  • Alarm – Officers responded to a burglary alarm. Entry was made into the building by Officers and nobody was located inside.  Officers stood by until the owner arrived and secured the building.
  • Criminal Sexual Conduct – Officers received a criminal sexual conduct complaint. The complaint remains under investigation.
  • Domestic – Officers were dispatched for a domestic in progress. The suspect was arrested for two counts of Domestic Violence, two counts of resisting Police Officer and on a warrant. 

Thursday, February 15

  • Domestic – Officers were requested to assist the Osceola County Sheriff Department with a possible domestic.

  • Criminal Sexual Conduct – Officers received a criminal sexual conduct complaint. The complaint remains under investigation.

Friday, February 16

  • Nothing reported.

Saturday, February 17

  • Criminal Sexual Conduct – Officers received a criminal sexual conduct complaint. The complaint remains under investigation.

Sunday, February 18

  • Disorderly - Officers were dispatched to a disorderly persons complaint. Officers helped resolved the civil dispute and arrested one of the subjects on a local warrant. 

Ferris State University Nursing and student-athlete alumna builds a career and a family in hometown of Big Rapids

Makenzi Currie’s focus was clear in her high school days in Big Rapids. Athletics were on the horizon, along with studying nursing. But she didn’t expect to be doing those things at Ferris State University.

“I have lived in Big Rapids my entire life and never expected I would continue my education here,” Currie said. “As an athlete, I had to first decide on a sport to focus on, and I had a passion for softball. The Division I offer, to walk on at the University of Michigan, was my ultimate athletic dream, but it would not accommodate my desire to study nursing.”

Currie made her intentions known and quickly found they could be met by being a Nursing student and Bulldog on the diamond in Big Rapids.

“Everything worked out at Ferris. I got athletic and academic scholarships, which easily turned out to be my best opportunity,” Currie said. “My athletic experience went great, and I got so much support from my coach, Keri Becker. There was never any conflict based on my academics. Things worked out with my schedule really worked very well.”

Currie graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and took her first assignment with the Emergency Room of what was Spectrum-Butterworth Hospital on Grand Rapids’ “Medical Mile.”

“I entered into nursing with the philosophy that anywhere, anytime and anyplace, I am capable of responding,” Currie said. “I believe that is a nurse’s true calling.”  

Working for a Level-One Trauma Center had benefits for a young nurse, Currie said.

“This was really the best possible outcome for me, as I received great training and added to my skills as a responder,” Currie said. “That included certificates as a Trauma Nurse-Critical Care, an Emergency Nurse-Pediatric Care and Advanced Care-Life Support.”

Living in Big Rapids and serving in Grand Rapids did not mesh with plans to start a family, so Currie moved from that active service scene to a new chapter in her career.

“I was adding shifts at Spectrum Health-Big Rapids Hospital, as a new mother that really gave me the ability to shorten my commute, work at a comfortable pace and make gains as a professional,” Currie said.

An experience with a patient sparked a move to the Susan P. Wheatlake Regional Cancer Center.

“I had always wanted to work in oncology,” Currie said. “I knew Stuart Hamel, the first person I recall whose passing in 2001 affected me. I didn’t see him as sick, until we knew he had cancer, and he died at the age of 41, before I was even an adolescent. I never forgot that.”

Currie worked with patients being treated at the regional center.

“The hours were great as we were building our family, but it is a difficult job,” Currie said. “It really pulls on your heartstrings, seeing community members coming in for their care.”

The professional journey continued as Currie took a position with Big Rapids Interventional Radiology, another Spectrum Health offering at the hospital.

“It really brought me to recall the pace of emergency room work and all the emphasis that is part of oncology care,” Currie said. “While the hours suited our family’s needs, I found the controlled chaos of interventional radiology really appealing, professionally. Some of the cancer patients I had met at the Wheatlake Center were there to work with us, again.”

Currie’s final full-time job was as the School Nurse for the Big Rapids Public Schools.

“Considering where I was in terms of raising a family, the hours were a small concern, so I did not apply the first time the position was available,” Currie said. “That wait paid off, as the next time it opened, I applied. I was looking forward to the joys of hearing students’ stories.”

She took that job near the end of February 2020, a couple of weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic, and her job went into the virtual realm to serve that campus community.

“I really found that difficult since I was home with my two youngest sons, in a role that was demanding in terms of providing the best possible service to the students,” Currie said. “I stuck with it for a while but decided it was an opportunity best suited for another nurse to assume.”

Currie has found great reward in following her passion in service to those in need, but also has a mind to help future nurses gain from her philosophy and experiences.

“I started the Master of Science in Nursing program a matter of days after one of my sons was born, wanting to become a professor,” Currie said. “I would have enjoyed focusing my passion on helping students learn and grow in nursing. Throughout my experiences in the field, I was always told the Ferris nursing alumnus would be an employer’s choice because we were ‘floor-ready,’ with practical training and encouraged to exercise critical thinking skills. We, as graduates are charged with caring for and thinking outside the box, as you respond to each patient and their needs.”

With four children to raise, Currie is happy at home now, near Big Rapids, but her part-time service as a nurse continued.

“I was doing per diem work for Spectrum, which has now become Corewell Health,” Currie said. “At first, my calls were to Big Rapids, Reed City and Evart patients, but the area of service grew.”

Makenzi said parenting is her top priority at this time.

“My husband and I are of the philosophy that ‘If you want to change the world, it starts in your home,’” Currie said. “The regional nature of my last professional role just didn’t mesh with my obligations to my growing children, so I decided to stay home for now. I left with good graces and will keep an eye on opportunities to use my skills and serve my family. Staying home is a hard job, but the rewards are always there to see and enjoy.”

Post-pandemic priorities point to need for chefs, Ferris State Hospitality Management program strives to support their business learning

Lifestyle changes brought on by workplace demands and a societal shift following the COVID-19 pandemic have led to increased demand for chefs in the hospitality industry – with Ferris State University Hospitality Management alums thriving as entrepreneurs or professionals in leading resort destinations.

Kathryn Wolfer is an associate professor in Hospitality Management whose educational background includes Restaurant, Hotel and Institutional Management and the culinary arts.

Wolfer said Ferris State can support those who want to focus on the food and beverage segment of the industry by completing their Associate of Applied Science or Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management programs.

“There are alumni who are purchasing food trucks and trailers so that they can take their products to the street, sporting events or other gatherings,” Wolfer said. “We also work closely with Grand Rapids Community College and its Secchia Institute for Culinary Education as a resource to those students wanting to complete their Bachelor of Science degree.”

Hospitality Management is housed in Ferris State’s College of Business. The focus on business management allows the graduates to utilize the accounting, marketing and finance courses in their day-to-day operations.

A recent finding by the American Association of Retired Persons cited chefs bringing average hourly wages of more than $27, with a 15.4 percent increase in the number of jobs available. An outgrowth of the pandemic in 2020 saw those who were forced to stay home had mastered baking and cooking, and recent growth in the number of restaurants has presented new career opportunities for those with culinary and management skills.

Rock Dandeneau of Grand Rapids is comfortable serving customers through the Taste Buds-Kitchen Connects array of outlets, which includes his Pressed In Time food truck. Dandeneau attended GRCC for Culinary studies and the Johnson and Wales Culinary School. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management from Ferris in 1993.

Rock is also the president of the Grand Rapids Food Truck Association, which boasts more than 30 members. Dandeneau said he leans on various experiences when speaking to current Ferris Hospitality Management students.

“Being a chef is my love and daily avocation, but that has taken me many places in various roles,” Dandeneau said. “I was a corporate chef for Herman Miller for a decade, then spent 15 years with Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids, helping those with special needs find their place in the industry. When I talk with Ferris Hospitality students, we explore how the industry has grown to consider production from in-home chefs as a potential avenue so those with the skills can stay in the field they love. With the right people, you learn to manage and tackle the obstacles of this industry. It is a business that involves much more than the restaurant or kitchen.”

Tiffany Beckmann earned her Bachelor of Science in Hotel/Restaurant Management from Ferris State in 2010, then added a Master of Science in Career and Technical Education from the university in 2013.

Along with those achievements, she is certified in food safety as a sous chef by the American Culinary Federation and is accredited in dietary management.

“I began as the head cook for Ferris’ Dining Services operation shortly after I earned my hospitality degree,” Beckmann said. “I followed that with a variety of institutional and resort roles, which finds me currently serving as a culinary supervisor with the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort in Mount Pleasant.”

Ferris State Volleyball headed to Spain and Portugal this May

The Ferris State University women's volleyball program, which has reached the NCAA Division II Sweet Sixteen each of the past three years, will gear up for the 2024 season with a special overseas trip this spring.

The Bulldogs will depart May 5 for a spring trip to Spain and Portugal where they will test their skills on the court against foreign competition. The unique 10-day trip will not only include game experience, but also strengthen team bonds and enrich cultural perspectives.

"The chance to spend 10 days in another country with our team is fantastic in terms of the team building that will come out of it," said FSU head coach Tia Brandel-Wilhelm. "The opportunity to play other teams and face another style of play will be a challenge, but the personal growth and leadership that will come out of it is exciting."

The FSU team is currently raising funds for the journey, which will help contribute toward airfare, accommodations, meals and in-country travel expenses. Additionally, all Gamechanger supporters contributing over $1,000 will also receive personalized updates directly from the Bulldogs throughout the trip.

"Overall, we're just really excited for the experience and the opportunity to experience new things," said FSU junior outside hitter Tatum Outlaw. "This is a once in a lifetime experience and we're working hard to educate ourselves on the language and the culture before we go."

Charitable donations to help support the Bulldogs' trip can be made online at the link below thru FSU's fundraising platform.

"I'm really excited to travel with the team, get to see new things and play volleyball in other countries," said Bulldog junior middle hitter Syann Fairfield. "I'm excited for the food and spending so much time in Portugal and Spain while getting to experience cool things."

The Bulldogs reached the NCAA Division II Sweet Sixteen this past fall for the third consecutive season. Ferris State also claimed the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLAIC) Tournament Championship this past year along with the school's 12th consecutive and 27th all-time NCAA Tournament appearance. FSU closed the campaign with a 27-8 overall record this past season.

The bulk of FSU's roster is slated to return for the 2024 fall season.

"This trip will give us the chance to face a higher level of competition in Europe and going overseas will help us grow as a team going into the season," FSU junior outside hitter Hannah Tecumseh said. "I haven't been outside of the United States, so getting to do it with the people I love so much, my teammates and coaches, is so special."

Visit this link to contribute to the Bulldogs' trip:

Local boys' basketball district tournament brackets officially released

As of Sunday afternoon, the Michigan High School Athletic Association officially released the 2024 boys' basketball postseason brackets for all four divisions.

The first round of district play will begin Monday, Feb. 26 at the assigned school location. District games will be held between Monday, Feb. 26 - Friday, Mar. 1, followed by regional contests from Monday, Mar. 4 through Friday, Mar. 8, and the finals from Tuesday, Mar. 12 through Saturday, Mar. 16.

Here's a look at the area boys' teams and their respective opening game schedules in order of district number assignments and sorted by each division:


Division 1

  • District 2 Semifinal - Mount Pleasant High School - Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 5:30 P.M.
    • Cadillac (17-2) vs. Bay City Western (9-11) / Midland Dow (6-14) quarterfinal winner


Division 2

  • District 35 Quarterfinal - Manistee High School - Monday, Feb. 26 at 7:00 P.M.
    • Big Rapids (14-6) vs. Manistee (10-10)


  • District 35 Semifinal - Manistee High School - Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 5:30 P.M.
    • Reed City (17-3) vs. Hart (10-10) / Mason County Central (8-12) quarterfinal winner


  • District 36 Semifinal - Gladwin High School - Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 5:30 P.M.
    • Chippewa Hills (5-15) vs. Clare (13-8)


  • District 40 Quarterfinal - Alma High School - Monday, Feb. 26 at 7:00 P.M.
    • Central Montcalm (7-12) vs. Saginaw Swan Valley (7-13)


  • District 41 Quarterfinal - Fremont High School - Monday, Feb. 26 at 5:30 P.M.
    • Tri-County (5-15) vs. Newaygo (12-8)


  • District 41 Quarterfinal - Fremont High School - Monday, Feb. 26 at 7:00 P.M.
    • Kent City (7-13) vs. Fremont (8-12)


  • District 41 Semifinal - Fremont High School - Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 5:30 P.M.
    • Grant (13-5) vs. Tri-County (5-15) / Newaygo (12-8) quarterfinal winner


Division 3

  • District 70 Quarterfinal - Beal City High School - Monday, Feb. 26 at 5:30 P.M.
    • Evart (4-13) vs. Harrison (3-18)


  • District 70 Semifinal - Beal City High School - Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 7:00 P.M.
    • Pine River (14-7) vs. Farwell (0-20) / Beaverton (8-11) quarterfinal winner


  • District 72 Quarterfinal - Morley Stanwood High School - Monday, Feb. 26 at 7:00 P.M.
    • Lakeview (5-15) vs. Morley Stanwood (2-17)


  • District 74 Quarterfinal - Hesperia High School - Monday, Feb. 26 at 5:30 P.M.
    • Holton (2-18) vs. Shelby (3-16)


  • District 74 Quarterfinal - Hesperia High School - Monday, Feb. 26 at 7:00 P.M.
    • Hesperia (8-12) vs. Ravenna (11-9)


  • District 74 Semifinal - Hesperia High School - Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 7:00 P.M.
    • White Cloud (16-4) vs. Hesperia (8-12) / Ravenna (11-9) quarterfinal winner


Division 4

  • District 109 Semifinal - Marion High School - Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 5:30 P.M.
    • Baldwin (16-3) vs. Marion (11-10) / Pentwater (16-5) quarterfinal winner


  • District 110 Quarterfinal - Walkerville High School - Monday, Feb. 26 at 7:00 P.M.
    • Big Rapids Crossroads (1-18) vs. Muskegon Catholic Central (4-16)


For more on local tournament coverage, follow along at

For expanded brackets, visit here: Brackets | Michigan High School Athletic Association (

Ferris State hosting a 'Gift of Life' campaign to support organ and tissue donor registration

Ferris State University is wrapping up a “Gift of Life” campaign that closes on Feb. 29, encouraging as many students as possible to consider registering to become organ and tissue donors, potentially saving lives. 

“Career and Professional Success is participating in this year’s Gift of Life Campus Challenge and is encouraging you to sign up to become an organ and tissue donor,” said Okai Strickland, an assistant in Ferris State’s Career and Professional Success office. “The more people who sign up, the more lives get saved. If you are already a donor, that’s OK. You can still top by the table.”

Through the Gift of Life Michigan website, registrants can help Ferris State earn points in a statewide challenge while helping to heal and save lives. Each organ donor can save up to eight lives and each tissue donor can heal an average of 75 people.

As of early morning on Feb. 16, Ferris State ranked second statewide in the number of students registered, with 40, trailing Wayne State University’s 103.

Universities are striving to recruit new donors and sign up the most new donors as a percentage of their student population. Each of the eight donatable organs – two lungs, liver, pancreas, heart, two kidneys, and intestines – can add years to a patient’s life and enhance the quality of life. 

The Gift of Life Michigan Campus Challenge encourages friendly but competitive rivalries to continue while supporting a cause that can help save lives. For nearly 20 years, college students statewide have served to inspire 40,000-plus people to put their name on the Michigan Organ Donor Registry.  

Tissue donors for tendons, skin and bones can help restore mobility for combat veterans, burn victims and individuals with failing joints. Cornea transplants, the most common according to Gift of Life Michigan, an organization founded in 1971, can help restore vision in patients. 

Nationally, more than 100,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant. 

In addition to direct donor and tissue donor registration, the Gift of Life Campus Challenge also offers volunteer opportunities for Ferris State community members to ask students to sign up at campus tabling events. 

In 2023, Gift of Life Michigan, the state’s federally designated organ and tissue donor recovery program, set a record by helping 578 people become organ donors and 1,858 to give the gift of tissue. These efforts saved thousands of lives and healed tens of thousands more. 

Anyone interested in volunteering for the campaign can request more information by emailing the Career and Professional Success office or stopping by and visiting us in the David L. Eisler Center. 

For more information about Ferris State’s Gift of Life efforts, contact Strickland at (231) 591-2682 or by email at For more information about Gift of Life Michigan, contact Taneisha Carswell at

To register on the Michigan Organ Donor Registry visit

Gotion Inc. officials invited to talk with local students at Big Rapids High School Career Fair

Two Gotion representatives were invited to the Big Rapids Career Fair on Tuesday and talked with more than 100 students about Gotion’s planned battery components facility in Green Charter Township.

Chuck Thelen, vice president of Gotion Inc. – North American Manufacturing; and Aaron Haley, director of project management at Gotion, met with several students at the fair.

“It was a joy to talk with so many local students about the great-paying jobs at our planned facility,” Thelen said. “They were excited to learn more about the plant and what types of jobs will be offered. Many intelligent questions were asked as well. I’d love to have these students eventually apply for positions with us.”

Gotion staff also were invited to attend other student career fairs at the high school in the future.

When fully operational, the Gotion facility will employ more than 2,300 people. Those seeking more information about available positions at Gotion Inc. can visit

Detroit man charged with stolen car and thefts across the state

On the evening of Feb. 14, a Kent County Sheriff's Office deputy located a stolen vehicle from Waterford Township in the parking lot of the Gaines Township Meijer. A man returned to the vehicle and was detained by deputies.

Through the investigation, it was found that the suspect was responsible for multiple thefts from retail stores in Lansing and Grand Rapids Township. The 26-year-old Detroit man was arrested on charges of possessing a stolen vehicle and additional charges are being sought concerning the additional thefts. It is believed that the thefts totaled upward of $550.00.

The Kent County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate stolen car complaints as it is well known that these vehicles are used in additional crimes throughout West Michigan. If you see something suspicious or notice your license plate stolen, please never hesitate to contact law enforcement.  

Vennix officially inks name to Northwood football

Only three weeks after verbally committing to the Timberwolves, Riley Vennix officially signed his name Thursday afternoon to join the football team on the gridiron in the fall.

Vennix was joined by his friends and family, local news, and many classmates and teammates at the high school to celebrate the occasion.

“(Northwood) felt like there’s a home for me and (the team felt) like a family,” Vennix said. “I just feel like that's where I'd be best at for the next four years.”

When asked about what he would recommend to athletes pursuing a dream like Riley’s, the senior mentioned that doing more than what’s asked and being willing to sacrifice are key pieces to his success.

“If your wishes are to go in any sport or anything in life, just don’t stop working and work your butt off. Even if it's 5 A.M. and you got morning lift or morning speed training, just keep working because it's gonna pay off one day. It goes by fast so always be patient, be the best you can be, and don't look back.”

The senior continues his Cardinal athletic career tonight on the hardwood, as Big Rapids faces Newaygo for a chance to lock-in a spot in the CSAA tournament next week. He also plans to finish his baseball career in spring, playing his second season under skipper J.T. Scarpelli.

Ferris State Women's Basketball to take part in Play4Kay initiative this Saturday

The Ferris State University women's basketball program will take part in an important Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) and national initiative this Saturday (Feb. 17), supporting life-saving cancer research in the Play4Kay campaign.

On Saturday, the 10 women's basketball programs of the GLIAC will come together to play five highly-competitive league games in the name of raising funds for life-saving cancer research, supporting under-resourced programs that provide access to quality cancer healthcare and uniting people in the fight against all cancers affecting women.

"The GLIAC is excited to partner with Play4Kay and is eager to aid in bringing attention to the important and impactful work to which the organization is passionately committed," said GLIAC Commissioner Kris Dunbar. "Cancer has or will affect nearly every person within their lifetime and the GLIAC is proud to be a leading force at the Division II level in supporting the Play4Kay fundraising efforts designed to eradicate this terrible disease."

The Bulldog women's squad, which is ranked fourth nationally in the WBCA Division II National Rankings this week, holds a 17-2 overall record entering Thursday evening's home contest against Saginaw Valley State. FSU is also on top of the GLIAC standings with an 11-1 league mark.

Tipoff on Saturday against Wayne State is slated for 1 p.m. (ET) and several activities are planned in conjunction with the Play4Kay campaign. Players from both teams will be wearing special warmup shirts along with pink shoelaces and the game officials will don pink whistles.

In addition, the two teams will gather for a photo prior to the contest and several video messages supporting the Play4Kay campaign will be shown on the Wink Arena video boards during the course of the contest. Fans will also have an opportunity to date at the game via a QR code displayed on the video boards periodically throughout the day.

All proceeds of Play4Kay will benefit the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. Every donation will help to make an impact on the fight against all cancers affecting women.

Play4Kay is the Kay Yow Cancer Fund's largest fundraising initiative and plays a major role in uniting players, coaches, and communities in the fight against all cancers affecting women.

To donate to the Bulldogs' Play4Kay cause, please visit this link:

Additional information on the GLIAC's Play4Kay campaign can also be found at the link below:

Pride Big Rapids announces plans for new festival location

For the third year in a row; Pride Big Rapids will be holding their annual festival, but with some changes. For the first two years, the event was put on at Northend Riverside Park. This year, PBR has preliminary approval to move the festivities downtown, to Michigan Avenue.

As part of this move, a portion of Michigan Avenue will be shut down, from Pine Street to Elm Street. Maple Street (M-20) will remain open and operational for the duration of the festival, its setup and cleanup. That is slated to be from 6 a.m. to midnight on June 30th, 2024. The festival itself will run from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on that date.

PBR estimates at least 3,000 people will attend the festival. This is on-par with attendance in 2023, and just as with previous years, we expect attendees to come and go as they please throughout the day. Parking will be handled differently compared to our first two years. There will no longer be a single lot from which buses ferry attendees. Attendees will instead utilize spots available on streets and nearby public lots. The area is also more walkable and accessible to disabled persons, likely decreasing the number of cars.

Security for the festival has been increased and will include four officers from Proof Technologies Corp. and members of the Mecosta County Sheriff’s Office Posse. Trained volunteers from PBR will also be a part of this team, lead by our board-appointed security director.

Once again, PBR will offer an alcohol tent featuring beer, wine, and seltzers. Trained bar tenders provided by local partner bars will sell the drinks inside a tent to be placed nearby the stage, in front of Star Shooters. No attendees under the age of 21 will be permitted to enter the
cordoned-off alcohol area or purchase alcohol. All alcohol must remain within the area, as well.

As for what will be included in the festival; expect dozens of vendors, several food trucks, activities for the whole family, live music, and drag shows. A full lineup will be announced at a later date.

*Location change and final details are subject to final approval by the City of Big Rapids.

Ferris State's new Center for Virtual learning hosting 2024 GLIAC Esports Championship

Ferris State University’s Center for Virtual Learning has been a hotbed of esports activity since opening in August, and now welcomes the best teams in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference for championship competition. 

The GLIAC Esports Championship is planned for Feb. 17 and 18 with teams representing Ferris State, Davenport, Grand Valley State, Michigan Tech, Purdue Northwest, Saginaw Valley State and Wayne State bringing their talents to the Esports Arena, the centerpiece of the $32 million Center for Virtual Learning. 

The competition starts at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 17. The tournament will be streamed live via Twitch

“Ferris State is excited and honored to host the GLIAC Esports Championships in Big Rapids inside a brand-new facility that draws rave reviews in the esports community,” said Amy Dorey, the Hospitality Management program coordinator who was recently on sabbatical in London learning about opportunities in online gaming competition. “We’re excited to help continue to grow esports among GLIAC schools and beyond while introducing more students to what esports can offer from fun to competition to industry careers after graduation. Ferris State has and will continue to play a role in those efforts.” 

The seven universities will participate in the two-day tournament featuring Valorant, League of Legends, Rocket League, and Super Smash Bros. 

Spectators are welcome to attend the event in Ferris State’s dedicated Esports Arena – the first purpose-built esports arena built in Michigan. In the short time since it opened officially on Aug. 31, 2023, the arena has already started attracting new students interested in the competitive gaming world and the possibility of a career in the emerging field. 

“The GLIAC Esports Championship is a fantastic opportunity for esports fans to see a competition like this, our facility was designed to host and stream events like this,” said Andrew Peterson, the interim director of eLearning. “We’re grateful to have the resources available to us in the Center for Virtual Learning and to put it to work to help create career opportunities that once didn’t seem possible. With a facility like this, and our Bachelor of Science in Professional Esports Production, we can provide our students with a practical hands-on learning experience.” 

Ferris State’s esports program was organized in 2017. By Fall 2022, the university started its Bachelor of Science academic curriculum in Professional Esports Production

The CVL is home to some of Ferris State’s most in-demand, high-impact academic programs. Programs housed in the facility include Artificial Intelligence, Data Science and Analytics, Digital Animation and Game Design, Information Security and Intelligence, Professional Esports Production, Project Management, Software Engineering, the School of Education, and Television and Digital Media Production. 

Esports, short for electronic sports, is a video game competition with participants squaring off as individuals or teams. More than 240 colleges and universities are fielding esports teams with more than 5,000 student-athletes, according to the National Association of Collegiate Esports, a Kansas City-based nonprofit. 

The inaugural tournament took place in 2023, hosted by Davenport University. The participating teams were Ferris State, Davenport, Grand Valley State, Michigan Tech and Purdue Northwest. 

Click Center for Virtual Learning for more information about the facility.