Army ROTC Cadets from MSU and UofM running in rain on a back country road


Alex's Great State Race raises thousands for students with disabilities on eve of MSU vs. UM game

By: Ruta Ulcinaite

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The big Michigan vs. Michigan State football game isn't just about rivalry and tailgates, it's also about highlighting the disability programs on both campuses through Alex's Great State Race.

Alex Powell is a former Michigan State student who loved sports and all things Spartan.

"He was a die hard Spartan and looked very forward to going to Michigan State," Alex's Great State Race director Michelle O’Kelly said.

Powell was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer and attended MSU while undergoing chemotherapy at the University of Michigan. When things got tough, Powell found resources and support at Michigan State's Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities.

“The mission of our center and really any university center is to provide equitable access to education for people with disabilities," said ability access specialist James Madaski. "They deserve a chance to succeed academically and that’s how you even the playing offering accommodations.”

However, after a hard fought battle, Powell passed away in 2011. His family knew they had to keep his legacy alive, and so Alex's Great State Race was born in 2014.

For 10 years now, the day before game day a team of ROTC cadets from both schools run the 64 miles from one campus to the other with the game ball. This year the cadets took off at 3am from Ann Arbor Friday and arrived in East Lansing to fans and MSU Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff.

Thousands of dollars are raised through the race every year and you can still donate to both school's disability programs in honor of Alex Powell.