In May, the Nashville Predators Foundation distributed 113 grants, totaling a record $450,772.87, to Nashville and Middle Tennessee-based charitable and community service organizations. Fans who have purchased a mystery puck, attended GnashVegas Casino Night or made a direct donation to the Foundation have all helped to provide the dollars necessary to make an impact in the community.
So once those grants are distributed, what happens next? Here is a look at two of the organizations that are giving campers the time of their lives.
Nestled in the Tennessee woods about an hour’s drive east of Nashville sits a camp full of children, ages 6-16, riding horses, rowing canoes and practicing archery. What brings them together isn’t apparent to the naked eye, but what is clear is the sense of joy they all share to be out in the open, away from the distractions and hardships most their age never have to face.
Each of the 62 campers at Camp Kesem have a parent who is dealing with some form of cancer – something that undoubtedly affects the entire family. So for one week each year, these children are able to clear their minds and go to a place where the only thing they have to worry about is which of their fellow campers they’re going to douse with whipped cream and chocolate syrup during messy games night.
This is the Vanderbilt University chapter of Camp Kesem, which is run by student leaders who are all currently in the midst of earning a degree from Vanderbilt. The camp is free of charge to all participants and is funded entirely by fundraising or grants, like the one provided by the Nashville Predators Foundation.
One of the camp’s co-directors, Scooby, whose real name is Emily Sharp, will be entering her junior year at Vanderbilt in the fall. Until then, she spends one week out of her summer giving her campers a sense of freedom every child should have.
“One of my favorite things is to see these campers come in the first day, and they literally will not let go of their parent’s hand; then on the last day, it’s the opposite. They just have this smile on their face, and they’ve made all these new friends, which is so cool,” Sharp said. “One thing that’s stuck with me in particular is all these kids have something in common. They’ve all been struggling with a parent’s cancer, but each of them has a very different way of dealing with it. Getting to see each individual coping strategy and each camper be empowered in their own way is a really cool thing.”
Some days are better than others for each of the campers, but for one week, thanks to Camp Kesem, they can play games, sing songs and learn from those who have much more in common than most.
“I think a lot of people try and give them sympathy or kind of look down on them in the situation that they’re in, which some of them might need that, but a lot of them need attention and someone to play games with them and just laugh with them and have fun,” Sharp said. “We know the parents want to give them that, but sometimes they don’t always have time. Having each other and just being able to talk to someone else who knows what chemo means is something that is so special.”
For more information on Camp Kesem, visit their website.
- Brooks Bratten
Deer Run Retreat:
A sprinkling of rain didn’t damper the excitement of the campers at Deer Run Retreat, especially once a certain cat arrived. Preds mascot Gnash joined the fun at Deer Run, a nonprofit, nondenominational Christian Summer Camp Ministry.
“Deer Run is really great because these kids get to come and get out of the house, feel safe and have fun,” camp counselor Craig Fay said. “They get to come and be with counselors that love them. They have an experience with an adult who is going to invest time in them, and let them know they are valuable.”
Each day, Deer Run Camp offers a wide range of activities, such as games, lake activities, archery, a climbing wall, an obstacle course, songs and a small group, age-appropriate Bible Study.
Before heading off to their breakout sessions, it was time to sing songs as a group, with Gnash taking part. With the help of friends and counselors, Gnash caught on to all the right dance moves. After camp songs, and the Deer Run Retreat theme song, it was off to everyone’s respective sessions for another fun day at camp, made possible with the help of the Preds Foundation.
“Coming back each year and meeting with a camper that was here last summer is the best,” Fay said. “They come up and ask, ‘Do you remember me? I remember you!’ Coming here and knowing you’re making an impact is huge. It’s that lasting effect.”
For more information on Deer Run, visit their website.
- Tiffany Williams