The YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee began the MEND initiative with the goal of ending violence against women and girls by engaging and educating men and boys. Nashville Predators President and CEO Sean Henry was an early supporter of the cause, joining forces with the likes of Shan Foster, MEND Director and former Vanderbilt University basketball star, and Vanderbilt Football Head Coach Derek Mason.
Henry estimates the first forum had less than 20 people in attendance. On Thursday morning at Bridgestone Arena, more than 400 attendees turned out to hear the message.
“The MEND movement itself is gathering coaches, teachers, parents, and what we have to do is stop talking about the movement and get involved,” Mason said. “Me, you, everybody in our society has to take a stand, and with that, let’s affect our community, let’s affect our home. Let’s all stop saying, it doesn’t affect me; it affects all of us.”
Metro Nashville Public Schools will begin implementing MEND programs in eight different schools for the 2016-17 school year, and the support from local sports teams and leagues has grown to more than 60.
The Preds also continue to support MEND, hosting forums at Bridgestone Arena throughout the year, giving parents, teachers, coaches and all community members the chance to learn more and get involved.
The vision for MEND is a simple one: to make Nashville the safest city in the country for women and girls. Both Mason and Henry believe that goal is well on its way to becoming a reality.
“It’s about not only having the conversations, but let’s make sure we meet young men, so that we can help try to solve some of the issues and problems,” Mason said. “With understanding the rules and the rules of engagement, I think it’s important that when our young people start to really gain those skill sets, that allows us to really look at what we’re doing and be effective in what we do and how we can help.”
“Our corporate goal with the Predators and Bridgestone Arena is to be the best sports venue in America built around a Stanley Cup championship team; when we put that up, people laughed at us, and they’re not laughing anymore,” Henry said. “People laughed when we said we’re going to end domestic violence or violence against women. They’re not laughing anymore, they’re jumping on board, and there’s no doubt this is going to be the safest city in America for women. That’s the goal, and we’re one step closer because of all the people here today.”
For more information on upcoming MEND Forums, the Nashville YWCA and how you can get involved, please visit the Nashville YWCA's website.