"We had a playground over to the left behind the church; just the asphalt we played and ran around on. It wasn't much, but we enjoyed what we had."
This was the playground at St. Mary Villa 45 years ago, and until Thursday morning, not much had changed to that description from an eighth-grade boy back in 1970.
That eighth grader grew up and stayed in West Nashville, where he and his wife raised their two sons, one of whom is Jeremy, the Front of House Coordinator for the Nashville Predators.
Walking up to the school's main entrance, Jeremy mentioned how his dad had gone to school here years ago and recounted times his brother would play basketball games in the school gym.
"I definitely called my dad over here, because he told me so many stories about playing on the playground and his time here, so I wanted him to come over and experience what had changed," the Nashville Predators Front of House Coordinator said.
Chuck Meriwether, Jeremy's dad, attended St. Mary Villa Child Development Center when it was St. Vincent de Paul School and still under a traditional Catholic leadership. He remembers boys and girls being required to play on separate sections of the lot and the convent that sat on the property, where the sisters and nuns lived.
Video: Preds staff builds a playground at St. Mary Villa CDC
Given the lack of development on top of the lot Chuck and his friends played on throughout school, KaBOOM! deemed St. Mary Villa a perfect location for a playground build.
KaBOOM!, a national non-profit whose mission is to give all children the playground they deserve, partnered with local organizations, including the Nashville Predators, to create a space where balanced and active play can allow students to thrive.
Close to 200 volunteers showed up on Thursday morning to take part in the sixth build by the Nashville Predators Foundation and KaBOOM!. After a couple cups of coffee and a quick-change into Gold t-shirts, the volunteers piled outside to break off into groups and start building two separate playground structures.
Jeremy spent his day moving hundreds of pounds of mulch onto the playground he grew up just minutes away from. Although the playground remained mostly vacant, the school itself changed a lot over the years and lost students during those transitions. For the Nashvillian, this build held even more weight than his previous four projects.
"It's a great feeling giving back to where I grew up," Jeremy said. "The school changed a lot, going from a grade school and back down to a preschool, so to actually start building it back up is a great experience."
For his dad, seeing hundreds of volunteers dressed in Gold t-shirts, building a playground on top of the asphalt he used to play on, was an emotional experience.
"It almost makes me speechless," Chuck said. "When Jeremy told me what was going on over here, it brought back great memories. I can almost see my old classmates playing over here! Seeing old classrooms, it makes you feel young again."