In a ceremonial check presentation held in Nissan Atrium at Bridgestone Arena, 145 Nashville and Middle Tennessee-based community service and charitable organizations received grants from the Nashville Predators Foundation. The largest one-time donation in Foundation history, $675,962, was distributed, marking the 13th consecutive year that they have surpassed the previous year's donation.
"This is the greatest celebration of the year for the Predators Foundation," said Preds Senior Director of Community Relations Rebecca King. "This room is filled with the most giving and passionate people, who are working so hard for their organizations, and we're extremely proud to support their efforts."
Among the many in attendance was Tracy Kujawa, founder of grant-recipient Angel Heart Farm, which serves children battling life-threatening illnesses using equine assisted therapy. Fighting back tears, she spoke to the Foundation's support of their programs.
"Of all the grants we've applied for, this is the one that we really wanted. The Predators organization is so good with our children," said Kujawa. "One of our little boys had his last game here three days before he went to heaven, and it's a big deal for us. You treat our babies like royalty, so it meant a lot to us. We're really blessed."
Predators forward Filip Forsberg, along with Kristen Laviolette, Foundation board member and wife to head coach Peter Laviolette, also joined in to congratulate each recipient and pose for photos.
"We're a hockey team, but doing things outside of that is what really brought this community together," said Forsberg. "I know what a great job the Foundation does to support so many charities and I'm honored to help out in any way I can."
Video: Preds Foundation 2019 grant recipient ceremony
Throughout the 2018-19 season, the Foundation hosted a variety of events, including the first-ever Weekend of Giving in September, GnashVegas Casino Night and the Predators Wine Festival. Funds raised by these events, in combination with proceeds from game-night auctions, play a large role in allowing the Predators Foundation to give back to the beloved Citizens of Smashville.
"It has been a core part of our organizational philosophy that we were going to be more than a hockey team, we were going to be intricately involved in the community," Predators Senior Vice President and Foundation Chairman Gerry Helper said. "We wanted to be able to make a difference, and the way that you make a difference is by partnering with these charitable organizations that work day in and day out to better the lives of people in our community."
In the spirit of giving, the Predators Foundation also joined forces with the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee (CFMT). For the fifth year, organizations that received grants were able to put their money toward The Big Payback, a 24-hour, online giving event that the CFMT uses to increase and encourage philanthropy in Middle Tennessee. Following the check presentation, all were welcomed to take their celebrations outside and join The Big Payback Plaza Party.
"Every year, we hope to do a little better," said Helper. "After the grant ceremony and Plaza Party, we will go right back to work trying to raise more money for next year's grants."
To see a photo gallery, including an image of each grant recipient, visit the Predators Foundation Facebook page.