National Blueberry Festival in South Haven

Everyone is familiar with Traverse City cherries, but many people are unaware that Michigan is also the nation’s leading producer of cultivated blueberries — with the majority of production done on family farms in Southwest Michigan.

Most of these farms are located within Allegan, Berrien, Muskegon, Ottawa and Van Buren counties and contribute to the roughly 100 million pounds of blueberries produced each year.

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, who represents Allegan and Van Buren counties in the state Senate, recently discussed how important blueberry production is to the economies of both Southwest Michigan and the entire state. Blueberry production alone injects nearly $122 million into the state’s economy.

The senator encouraged residents to help continue making these numbers grow by purchasing berries from a local farmer, a store that sells local produce or a bakery that uses blueberries from nearby farms.

Schuitmaker also noted the $122 million does not include tourism revenue generated from the state’s several blueberry festivals. Tourists from around the nation flock to Michigan to attend the National Blueberry Festival in South Haven.

The 48th consecutive National Blueberry Festival is underway and runs from Aug. 11 to Aug. 14.

For a list of events, directions, parking and other information for this year’s festival, visit

Older Americans Month

Michigan is home to more than 1.8 million senior citizens — all of whom have a wealth of life experience and knowledge to impart to younger generations. Every spring, we acknowledge this wisdom and life experience during Older Americans Month. Here in Michigan, senior organizations from around the state choose a day to gather on the Capitol lawn during Older Americans Month to celebrate Older Michiganians Day.

The annual event draws hundreds of seniors, service providers and advocates to raise awareness for issues facing senior citizens. It also gives participants an opportunity to speak with elected officials about concerns specific to their respective communities.

Older Americans Month celebrations are not limited to the state Capitol however. Some lawmakers have celebrations back in their districts as well.

Every spring during Older Americans Month, Sens. Margaret O’Brien and Tonya Schuitmaker co-host the annual Mattawan Lions Club Senior and Veteran Expo along with Rep. Aric Nesbitt. The legislators partner with the Lions Club to connect seniors and veterans with organizations and businesses that can provide products and services that are important to them.

This year’s celebration brought nearly 1,000 seniors and veterans from Southwest Michigan to the Antwerp Township Activity Center where more than 100 local businesses and organizations shared services they offer that might interest or be beneficial to senior and veteran populations. Bronson Lakeview Hospital had employees on hand to provide free health and wellness screenings and attendees received a free lunch and goodie bag.

This event has continued to grow since it started ten years ago and is now one of the biggest events of its kind in Southwest Michigan. For more information, please visit:

Honoring crime victims during annual vigil at Capitol


Every April, the Michigan Crime Victims Vigil serves as a remembrance for victims, along with families and friends of those who have been impacted by a crime.

Members from law enforcement agencies, victim services associations and other advocate groups all gather in the Capitol Rotunda to honor and remember those who have been a victim, or have suffered a loss as the result of a crime.

The event also features speakers and an award ceremony honoring the strongest advocates of victims’ rights in Michigan.

The vigil is sponsored by the Crime Victim Foundation and takes place at the Capitol each year as part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, hosted the 28th annual Michigan Crime Victims Vigil on Wednesday evening along with Attorney General Bill Schuette and Sen. Steven Bieda, D-Warren. Schuitmaker is a long-time participant of this event and has served as both co-host and keynote speaker in the past.

Schuitmaker also introduced a resolution on the Senate floor proclaiming April 10-16 as Crime Victims’ Rights Week in Michigan. The week is commemorated with events across the country recognizing and supporting victims’ rights.

With the implementation of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act in 1985 and the passage of a constitutional amendment in 1988, the state of Michigan has adopted some of the nation’s most comprehensive laws to protect the rights of crime victims.

Let us never forget those most impacted by crime — the victims and their families.

Keeping Michigan children safe

It is an unfortunate reality, but thousands of Michigan children face the horrors of abuse each year. It is estimated that more than 1,500 children throughout the United States die annually from child abuse and neglect. Each April, on the state and national level, we increase our efforts to raise awareness and help put a stop to this horrible crime.

Child Abuse Prevention Month has been recognized in April each year since it was affirmed by a presidential proclamation in 1983. Many communities throughout the state hold ceremonies and plant blue pinwheels, which are the national symbol for child abuse prevention.

The Michigan Children’s Trust Fund is once again hosting their annual Michigan Prevention Awareness Day at the state Capitol. The ceremony brings attention to the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse in all forms. Prevention Awareness Day also serves as a legislative education day by giving advocates the opportunity to discuss prevention needs with state legislators. Events include a procession, planting of a pinwheel garden on the lawn of the state Capitol and a lineup of notable speakers. This year’s event is scheduled for April 19 at 11 a.m. on the Capitol steps.

Michigan Senate Republicans are also taking action to prevent these troubling statistics in our state. State Sens. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, and Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, have introduced legislation that would address the issue of child abuse in daycares — specifically instances that result in the death of a child.

Under current Michigan law, any violation of the Child Care Licensing Act is a misdemeanor that can cost a child care facility their license for at least two years.

Senate Bills 746 and 747 were introduced as the result of the tragic death of a three-month-old child in a West Michigan daycare. The daycare was shut down by the state after an investigation found numerous violations at the facility.

This legislation would specify that, if a violation of the Act resulted in the death of a child, the person would be guilty of second degree child abuse, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The facility’s child care license or registration would also be permanently revoked.

Senate Republicans encourage state residents to wear blue, plant pinwheels, and get involved in their community to help put an end to child abuse in Michigan.

If you suspect a child is being abused or seriously neglected, Michigan has a toll-free child abuse hotline that can be reached at 1-855-444-3911.

Go Red for Women

Each year, cardiovascular disease claims the lives of nearly one in three women in America. Approximately every 80 seconds, one woman dies from cardiovascular disease, and 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors.

The Michigan Senate and the American Heart Association are once again teaming up to raise awareness about the dangers of heart disease and to educate the public, especially women, about how to recognize warning signs. For the sixth year in a row, Senate Republicans, led by Tonya Schuitmaker, Judy Emmons and Margaret O’Brien, sponsored a resolution recognizing Feb. 5 as “Wear Red Day” in Michigan.

Go Red for Women is a national movement dedicated to increasing awareness of the dangers surrounding heart disease. Up to 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with proper education on what to do if an event occurs, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Most people have been trained to recognize the most common symptom of a heart attack: extreme chest pain. However, women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and back or jaw pain. Other symptoms include dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen and extreme fatigue.

The best way to decrease your odds is to get regular checkups. Although some risk factors for heart disease (such as age, family health history and race) cannot be avoided, other risks like alcohol consumption, smoking, inactivity and obesity are very manageable.

For more information about Go Red for Women and heart disease, visit

“Go Red For Women” today, and encourage friends and family to do the same by using the hashtags #GoRedWearRed, #WellWomenVisit, #GoRedForWomen and #GoRed on social media.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Sens. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage; Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton; and Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan; remind Michigan families of the importance of learning the risks, symptoms and treatment options in a Breast Cancer Awareness Month public service announcement.

During the month, the Michigan Senate Republicans join in renewing the fight against breast cancer, working to raise awareness and supporting those who are fighting or have survived the disease.

Students, parents gear up for another school year

To ensure that the upcoming school year is a success, there are important roles that both parents and students must play. The first priority, of course, is student safety.

If your child rides the bus, take the time to make sure your child knows the proper safety procedures for getting on and off the bus. If you drive your child to school or for students who drive themselves, please be aware and cautious when driving in school zones and around buses.

As parents, we also need to make sure we communicate with our kids and are doing what we can to help them get the most out of their education. Show support and do what you can to foster growth in your young students. For parents of first-time students, the Michigan Department of Education’s website provides many useful resources at: under the “Parent Engagement” tab.