GRAND RAPIDS — When the largest group of students to ever attend the Grand Rapids Griffins annual matinee game showed up at Van Andel Arena a few weeks ago, the hockey players taught them the importance of gaining the blue line.
But before the players took to the ice, local businesses taught the students the importance of gaining a good grasp of their bottom line.
More than 6,000 public, charter and parochial middle- and high-school students set a record for student attendance at the traditional yearly noon game that goes back six years.
And they made up the lion’s share of fans that set the all-time attendance record of 8,234 for the game that day.
Lake Michigan Credit Union served as the game’s major sponsor and gathered the high school students together for a career seminar in the arena banquet room before the game.
Credit union representatives focused on personal money matters for the high schoolers, and a licensed mortgage broker and home retailer explained to them how houses are bought and sold. They also presented the students with insights into their respective career fields.
“Lake Michigan Credit Union is a pretty big partner with us in that game,” said Bob Sack, Griffins vice president of sales and marketing.
“Lake Michigan Credit Union spends time at schools throughout Kent County on a weekly basis and Vickie Smith meets with a lot of kids. What she has found and what they’ve expressed to us is there are a lot of kids who don’t understand what it means to manage their money. So that is what led to them talking about mortgages,” said Sack.
Smith directs promotions for the credit union, including those with the Griffins, and she also handles the LMCU scholarship program.
Representatives from Pioneer Construction, one of the area’s largest project managers and builders, also talked to the high school students about careers in the construction field and about the vast array of building projects currently going up downtown.
Middle-school students had a similar experience, but on the arena’s concourse where they were treated to multiple five-minute presentations on the building industry.
The Home Depot told them how everyday math is used in building projects. LMCU told them what a mortgage is. Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity explained how a playhouse gets built. Home Repair Services showed them how to fix a leaky faucet. IBEW Local 275 talked about electricity. Grapids Irrigation spoke about conserving water.
Various CAD programs were topics for the Kent Career Technical Center, JW Marriott Hotel and ITT Technical Institute. And the Wolverine Business Group spoke of safety.
“The money management and mortgage idea from Lake Michigan Credit Union led us to the whole construction idea,” said Sack.
“Every year we do a different theme. In the past, themes have included Michigan history, the military, a focus on mathematics, and one year it was on computers and technology.”
Sack said the matinee game surfaced six seasons ago from three factors. First was the realization that if baseball could play during the day so could hockey. Second, the Griffins’ schedule already has night games during the week, so the team could easily move one each season to daylight hours and expose the sport to a different crowd.
“Third, our role is one that says we are looking for ways to make an impact in the community in a qualitative way and truly reach youth, and this is a pretty unique way to do that,” said Sack. “When we started it, we wanted to take an educational approach to it, so every year there has been a different theme.”
The 6,000 students at the game represented about 60 schools, and some came from as far away as South Haven, Vestaburg and Lake Odessa.