Kelsey Penland, community relations director for Athletics, is not only in charge of hiring Grand Valley’s mascot, but she is passionate about making a difference in the sports community.
Penland, a native of Grand Rapids, landed an internship with the West Michigan Sports Commission during her senior year at Grand Valley; she graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education with an emphasis in sports management.
Penland then worked for the Grand Rapids Griffins for a few seasons before returning to Grand Valley to work for Athletics.
Some of Penland’s responsibilities include ticketing for sports events, ordering uniforms and other gear for Grand Valley teams and participating in community outreach with Louie the Laker.
“Getting out into the community is an awesome way to build our brand so people know about Grand Valley and can become fans or students down the line,” Penland said. “I think Louie creates that connectivity, especially for kids. He puts a face to the name of Grand Valley.”
Penland is also in charge of selecting students to be Louie and said this is an opportunity for them to play a greater part in creating university pride.
“Anything that I can do to help improve someone’s game day experience is the most rewarding thing for me,” she said. “We are always trying to increase school spirit and Laker pride as a whole and Louie help with that.”
Through the Make a Wish Foundation, Louie and Penland made a home visit to a child whose father was a Laker.
“The boy wasn’t very responsive at first, but when Louie went over to his bed, he had a big smile on his face,” Penland said. “Those things are really touching and heartwarming to be a part of.”