Thirty-five kids, regular visitors to Ford Ice Center’s neighboring Southeast Community Center, were treated to a memorable Wednesday afternoon, courtesy of familiar partners of the Nashville Predators; Service Management Systems (SMS), who is in charge of the maintenance and cleaning of both Ford Ice and Bridgestone Arena and Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee.
Instead of their regular afternoon activities at the Community Center, the kids spent the afternoon skating at Ford Ice Center followed by a warm meal that was prepared by Second Harvest and SMS staff.
“Most of [the kids] aren’t skaters, but to see the look on their faces, they’re excited to put skates on and get on the ice,” SMS President Mike Wein said. “When you tap into the heart of a child and see their overall enthusiasm for something like this, it’s just so special.”
The afternoon’s activities of skating and enjoying freshly grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, fruit, chips and cookies, was a brainchild of Wein. The idea, first birthed back in July when Wein watched a piece on Nashville’s News Channel 2 about “Hunger Free Fridays” in conjunction with Second Harvest Food Bank, came together over the last few months after various meetings with Second Harvest and Ford Ice Center’s General Manager, Danny Butler.
“I was so impressed by [Second Harvest Food Bank] and their distribution network, the way they take care of Middle Tennessee and their heart and passion for kids,” Wein said. “Our company always tries to do the right thing here in the community, and this was a chance to give back and put our hands on doing something special for kids.”
Hosting the event at Ford Ice Center was an easy decision, Wein said, and was an opportunity that the Nashville Predators, who SMS has worked with for the last six years, quickly connected on.
“This is a great fit for what we’re doing in Antioch,” Butler said. “It’s a season of giving and we want to be able to help people as much as we can. It goes back to our philosophy of what we’re doing here, and a big part of that is giving back to the community on a daily basis.”
Wednesday’s event was just the first of a string of events that the Nashville Predators and Ford Ice Center are doing in partnership with Second Harvest as the holiday season officially begins.
On Tuesday, Nov. 25, beginning at 6 a.m. and running through that evening’s game against the Los Angeles Kings, the Nashville Predators will host their annual Second Harvest Food Drive at Bridgestone Arena. Fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to the Arena’s plaza, on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Broadway, at any time during the day to donate. Volunteers from the Preds, Second Harvest and UnitedHealthcare will be on hand to collect donations, and the plaza will be full of music, games and giveaways for fans to enjoy.
Beginning Thursday, donations toward the Preds Second Harvest Food Drive will also be accepted at Ford Ice Center. With kids being out of school for the holiday, Ford Ice Center is offering expanded public skate times and anyone that brings a non-perishable food item to the rink will receive a free skate rental. In addition, anyone playing open hockey at Ford Ice will receive $3-off their fee when they bring a food item to donate.
According to Second Harvest’s Communications Manager Elizabeth Bradbury, canned chicken and tuna, soups and stews, peanut butter, canned vegetables, cereal and pasta are items the Food Bank needs the most.
Anyone who is unable to make it out Bridgestone Arena or Ford Ice Center to donate, is invited to visit www.secondharvestmidtn.org/preds to donate as part of the Preds’ Virtual Food Drive. As an added perk, the person that raises the most money at the Virtual Food Drive by Monday, Nov. 24, will be given two tickets to the Preds game against L.A on Tuesday and will serve as “Mayor of Smashville.”
“In our service area, which covers 46 counties in Middle and West Tennessee, there’s almost 400,000 people who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from,” Bradbury said. “We encourage the public to get involved, whether that’s raising money, volunteering or donating food during this time to help the holidays for some families be a little less burdensome and a little more celebratory.”