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Preds Make Lasting Impacts Throughout Nashville Community

Annual Community Day Sees Predators Players Visit Organizations Across Middle Tennessee

by Nashville Predators @PredsNHL / NashvillePredators.com

Not all superheroes wear capes - but Filip Forsberg and his friend Axl do.

The Predators winger dropped by Make-A-Wish of Middle Tennessee on Monday afternoon to surprise some Nashvillians, who will soon be on their way to the most magical place on earth.

With help from Delta Dental of Tennessee and Forsberg's Hockey Clinic held at Ford Ice Center Antioch last month, a check for more than $27,000 was donated to Make-A-Wish to help those who need it most. Four children and their families, including 3-year-old Axl, will travel to Walt Disney World later this month, and they'll do so in style.

Forsberg, along with fellow forward Mikael Granlund, helped the children make capes and tutus to wear on their upcoming adventures. As the soundtrack to Disney's Frozen and The Lion King played in the background, those in the room, who have had their wishes granted, felt as though they were in a fairytale already.

The donation from Forsberg's clinic was impactful enough, but another number - one that totaled more than $200,000 - was on display as well to show the support the Predators have provided to Make-A-Wish over the years.

"You can see an ongoing commitment - it wasn't a 'let's wake up this morning and see what I can do,'" Delta Dental of Tennessee President Phil Wenk said. "It's a commitment by the Preds and Filip to get this done. Too often, people forget that giving back is very important, but the Predators don't, and they never have. The Preds have been an incredible community partner, and I think there's an expectation that if you're going to be a Pred, this is part of it."

"We only get to grant these wishes because organizations like the Preds support us," Make-A-Wish of Middle Tennessee President & CEO Beth Torres said. "What the Preds do, and specifically, what Filip does, when he hosts this clinic and raises money for us and then comes out and spends time with our kids, it's powerful."

It was a one-stop-shop in an office building just east of downtown that houses three different organizations, all of which are special to the Preds and the Nashville Predators Foundation.  

Before the trip upstairs to Make-A-Wish, Forsberg and Granlund stopped by the Interfaith Dental Clinic, where the pair visited with patients, prepared welcome packages and even played the role of doctor and patient, with Forsberg slipping into a white jacket and a mask to complete the dentistry look.

They also visited Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee and learned about the work the organization does across the state to keep children safe.

- Brooks Bratten

AMEND Together:

In a middle-school cafeteria, sunlight streaming in after the final bell had rung for the day, 24 teenagers gathered to answer the question: What does it mean to be a real man?

Hands went up and thoughts were jotted down, all while two professional athletes watched from the back of the room, taking in the ideas from Nashville's youth.

It was an important discussion at the AMEND Club meeting within the halls of Jere Baxter Middle School, a conversation that soon turned the attention to Mattias Ekholm and Craig Smith with the question - What does it mean to be a real athlete?

Perhaps no one was better suited to field that inquiry than the two members of the Nashville Predators, and they did so while working with an organization the franchise has developed a close relationship with over the past few years. AMEND Together, in conjunction with the YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, owns a mission of making Nashville the safest city for women and girls in the entire country while teaching young me about healthy masculinity.

After discussions were had, students were allowed to pose questions to Smith and Ekholm before a massive game of floor hockey commenced with the Preds sharing their skills with their new mentees.

"They're superstars, they're role models for this community, and especially these young men, they look up to them," VP of External Affairs and AMEND Together Shan Foster said. "To have them here talking about healthy manhood and what it means to be a man and how to value and respect women and girls, seeing that from your role models is really important. It's just an invaluable opportunity for them to really give back to the community in a meaningful way."

Ekholm, a young father himself, realizes the importance of the program and believes it's vital to have these conversations. As a professional athlete, the defenseman also knows the role he plays in making his community a better place.

"Some of the questions today were something like, 'How it is to be famous?' And I think this is the responsibility, if you want to call us famous, to give back," Ekholm said. "Maybe we can put some thought into some of these students' brains to be respectable to whoever you meet out there. That's a huge thing, and I think the Predators do a great job of just being out in the community, whether it be AMEND or going to Children's Hospital, anything. It's a no-brainer for us, and it's fun to spend an afternoon like this."

- Brooks Bratten

VA Hospital:

The Nashville Predators' annual community day was a special one for Nick Bonino, Ryan Ellis, Austin Watson and Dante Fabbro, who met nearly 90 veterans at the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System's Nashville VA Medical Center at Vanderbilt on Oct. 1.

It was an afternoon filled with uplifted spirits on both sides as the Preds players went room-to-room and shared stories, took pictures and signed autographs for the brave men and women who served the United States at the facility.

For Bonino, the experience was a humbling one. As part of the Bones' Barracks program he introduced before the 2018-19 season, the Nashville center meets with veterans before every home game, presents them with an autographed Predators jersey and donates lower-level seats.

"These veterans have risked everything, and it's great to see them getting help and support," Bonino said. "It's nice for us to meet them. A vast majority of them are Preds fans and follow us, so it's amazing to have their support. These are the visits we always look forward to."

Retired Air Force Master Sgt. Tom Gallagher, who is the chief of voluntary service at the hospital, said the whole goal of the facility is to brighten the days of the patients in any way possible, and that a visit from the Predators did just that.

"A lot of the veterans who are here may not see a single person the entire time they're hospitalized," Gallagher said. "It gives them a special lift when they see people like the Predators players take the time to visit them in the hospital."

Bonino said visits like these always help him keep life in perspective.

"When meeting them, one of the things we realized is that they all have great attitudes," Bonino said. "Even though they're not doing as well as they'd like, you wouldn't know it meeting them. Knowing what they've gone through and hearing their stories sometimes makes what we do a bit trivial."

- Nick Barnowski 

Video: Weber explains origins of Weber's Woof Pack

Nashville Humane Association

When the Nashville Humane Association experienced a shortage of supplies last year, Preds defenseman Yannick Weber, a proud dog owner himself, realized that he could use his voice as a professional athlete to raise awareness for local animals in need. Through his passion for helping animals, Weber's Woof Pack was born.

Recently, through funds raised by its membership fees, Weber's Woof Pack sponsored an adoption event at the Nashville shelter. Weber, joined by fellow Preds Matt Irwin and Daniel Carr, exercised dogs in the yard, prepared treats for the dogs and cats and shared in the excitement of families who had just found their newest member. Thanks to Weber's desire to help animals in need, all adoption fees were waived to just $7 on the day of the event.

"To have days like today where we can have an adoption fee of $7 and we cover the rest, that's our way to give back to the community of animals, raise awareness and make sure people adopt instead of buying dogs from puppy mills or online," said Weber. "That's our goal and it's been going great. We see today a lot of dogs and cats have been adopted."

Through the $7 adoption event, more than 15 dogs and cats found forever homes in just one day, creating space for the Nashville Humane Association to help additional animals who would otherwise be at risk of inhumane or dangerous conditions.

"We love Weber's Woof Pack. It helps us raise awareness for animals that need homes," Nashville Humane Association Executive Director Laura Chavarria said. "We love that the Predators use their massive platform for good for the community, and that's really what it does for us - it raises awareness and gets animals adopted into loving homes. We just love that partnership because it helps us to strengthen the human animal bond."

For information on how to join Weber's Woof Pack, visit NashvillePredators.com/Woof.

- Emily Polanowicz

Video: Hamhuis, Jarnkrok visit Glencliff Elementary

Future Goals School Visit:

It was a day to remember at Glencliff STEAM Magnet Elementary School on Tuesday as Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis and winger Calle Jarnkrok paid a visit to the fourth-grade classes.

The visit began with the two players visiting a computer science class where the students got to show off the Hockey Scholars Program. The program uses hockey as the basis to teach math and science concepts.

"It looks like they're working on some pretty neat things here," Hamhuis said. "I've learned some things today from them. It's just so neat to see them be excited about it and teach them these skills in a new way through hockey."

Once their time in the classroom was up, all the students met in the gym where they were able to participate in a floor hockey session with their visitors. From a race to see who could get equipment on the fastest to shooting skills, the gym was filled with laughter and fun.

"It's a lot of fun to come out here to the school and see the kids," Hamhuis said. "It's such a privilege to be a part of the Predators, to be able to do something like this."

- Sammie Lisberg

West Nashville Dream Center with the FBI

The Preds and the feds came together with the West Nashville Dream Center to give some local children a few different heroes to regard. 

The West Nashville Dream Center aims to protect and empower youth by exposing them to law enforcement in their community. According to their website, crime rates are down 25 percent due to their new initiatives with law enforcement.

Dream Center Program Coordinator Elle Sanders was excited about the different exposure that children in the community are getting with not only law enforcement heroes, but also Preds forwards Colton Sissons and Kyle Turris, as well as everyone's favorite mascot, GNASH.

"In our community, a lot of the kids' worlds are so small, and all they see is school and their home environments," Sanders said. "So, when we get big players in the community, who are a big part of who Nashville is, to come and meet them, it really opens their eyes and allows them to see what's going on and dream a little bigger about who they can be."

As for Sissons and Turris, they tried on some SWAT team gear, learned about footprint molding alongside the kids and interacted with one of the support dogs. Turris was especially excited to wear the SWAT team vest and learn about what the FBI does.

"It's fun to get out and meet new people and to have the FBI here teaching us cool things about what they do," Turris said. "Colton and I, as well as the kids, are learning a lot, and it's a great time."

- Madi McGuire

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