Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt:
Young Joey had quite a cheering section.
Dante Fabbro (2016 first-round pick), Philip Tomasino (2019 first-round pick), Brandon Fortunato (free-agent signee) and Isak Walther (2019 sixth-round pick) huddled around a chair and watched the boy play baseball on a gaming console, and when he hit one out of the park, the crowd went wild.
It was a highlight of Thursday afternoon's visit to Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, a day that included stops in the playrooms at the facility, which provide patients an opportunity to forget about life for a moment and just be a child.
Rem Pitlick (2016 third-round pick) and Jeremy Davies (acquired via trade) were also on hand for the visit, which began with a radio show in Seacrest Studios at the hospital. The group participated in a question-and-answer session with patients before heading upstairs for some arts and crafts, video games and air hockey.
For the children who are currently enduring things no child should ever have to go through, a visit like this is a welcome reprieve from the day-to-day hardships they face - and the rookies were happy to participate.
"We had a really fun time and got the chance to see some kids that are fighting something in their lives, so it's awesome to see how hard they battle every day," Tomasino said. "It proves there's something more to life than hockey, and it's awesome to get the chance to be here and visit these kids. It's an awesome day for us."
Drafted by the Predators less than a week ago, Tomasino was experiencing his first community visit with his new club, and it certainly made an impact on the 17-year-old centerman, as he learns what it means to be a member of the organization.
"To get the chance to see these kids and see what they do, how they push themselves every day, it's an amazing thing for us to see," he said.
By Brooks Bratten
Friends Life Community:
Without places like Friends Life Community, individuals with developmental disabilities would not have access to the friends and activities we so often take for granted.
That's why Friends Life was started in 2008. They wanted to ensure teenagers and adults, who have aged out of some disability programs, would have a place to paint, play, learn - and most importantly - be loved by their community.
Preds prospects Jeremie Bucheler (camp invite), Alexander Campbell, (2019 third-round pick), Ethan Haider (2019 fifth-round pick), Patrick Harper (2016 fifth-round pick) and Grant Mismash (2017 second-round pick) took their turn at demonstrating that love on Thursday.
"It's an awesome experience to get out here with these guys and make them happy," said Harper, who played ball hockey for hours on the back driveway. "To [make] their week, it's really heartwarming."
In the basement, Mismash led several groups through painting mini hockey sticks, while upstairs, other prospects played bingo and chatted about sports.
"We have a lot of die-hard Preds fans here. It's a great opportunity for our friends to see they are loved by the community," Friends Life Director of Philanthropy Lauren Zook said. "We want to give each individual, with a developmental disability, the opportunity to reach their fullest potential. We really want them to develop socially, grow personally and be a part of a community."
By Thomas Willis
Corner to Corner:
Growing up in Nolensville, Tennessee, Dylan Moulton always dreamed of being the hero on the Bridgestone Arena ice.
Today, participating in his first development camp with the Predators organization, the 18-year-old set his sights on becoming a different kind of hero - this time on the big screen.
Moulton (camp invite) played a starring role in the Corner to Corner program's film "Be Like Ice," passing on a magic hockey stick to a team of children from Nashville to help them beat their opponents - the Preds prospects.
"There were some nerves at the start," Moulton admitted, "but I thought I did all right. I grew up a Preds fan, so they were role models for me, and it was always cool when the team came to events. So to be here in a similar position with all these kids, it was unbelievable."
Corner to Corner is a faith-based nonprofit whose goal is to help youth in Nashville fall in love with reading. Among its many programs is the "Script to Screen" initiative, which uses movie scripts as a way to teach reading and writing to children. This week, the group wrote and edited the script to a hockey movie, and with the Predators' help, took the knowledge they learned to shoot the footage with a goal of turning it into a short film.
Egor Afanasyev (2019 second-round pick), Lukas Craggs (free-agent signee), Zach Magwood (free-agent signee), Niclas Westerholm (free-agent signee) and Connor Ingram (acquired via trade) joined Moulton in earning their first screen credits as actors.
"When I was growing up in Russia, I loved to see players come out to events and be an example to look up to," Afanasyev said. "It's a great thing to be at this event today after being drafted. It's another part of my journey. Now, I'm here in Nashville getting the chance to do things like this. It's a lot of fun."
By Nick Barnowski
Room In the Inn:
From the Mike Fisher Legacy Project to hosting block parties in the team's honor, Room In the Inn has been a long-time friend and partner of the Predators organization, and that continued Thursday in downtown Nashville.
The music was blaring, and smiles and laughs abound as Adam Smith (2016 seventh-round pick), Tanner Jeannot (free-agent signee) and Josh Wilkins (free-agent signee) mixed and mingled on campus, first serving food, then partaking in some of the most competitive Jenga games ever seen with residents in the day room.
Smith manned the popcorn station, with Wilkins in charge of ice cream floats and Jeannot flipping hot dogs on the grill in the courtyard. When everyone was full, Jenga ensued, with the blocks ascending over the onlookers and participants alike. Smith even shot video of one of the rounds as his team triumphantly watched the tower collapse on their opponents.
As the day room cleared out and residents went about the rest of their day, the trio of prospects took a quick tour and grabbed a "Love your neighbor, ya'll" shirt to commemorate their afternoon of service.
By Kevin Wilson
Bobby McMann (camp invite), Hugo Roy (signed with AHL Milwaukee), Hunter Garlent (signed with AHL Milwaukee), Spenser Young (camp invite), Ben Schultheis (camp invite) and goalie Justin Fazio (camp invite) took to Walmart to shop for school supplies in preparation for the upcoming academic year.
"The goal is for them to have everything they need to be ready for school in the fall," Executive Director of Cottage Cove Brent MacDonald said. Founded in 1994, Cottage Cove, a nonprofit Christian ministry located in the Vine Hill and Madison Districts of Nashville, serves up to 85 at-risk children and youth 365 days a year.
"It's rewarding giving back to the community," McMann said. "Helping people out who may not have the same opportunities I have had in my life is incredibly rewarding."
From pink to green to purple to blue, the children beamed up and down the colorful aisles as they selected their school supplies. One by one, each item on the list was checked off until the children procured the necessary items.
"Anytime you can get involved in the community, no matter where you are playing, it is always a special thing," said Garlent. "It's fun to give back, and we enjoyed the day here with these kids."
By Nicholas Gibson
Tennessee Baptist Children's Home:
Predators rookies Eeli Tolvanen (2017 first-round pick), Thomas Novak (2015 third-round pick), Jachym Kondelik (2018 fourth-round pick) and Ross Armour (camp invite) visited the Tennessee Baptist Children's Home and enjoyed a carnival-themed afternoon with the boys and girls who call the Brentwood location home.
The organization, which provides residential care and foster care for children ages 5 to 18 across the state, can house 32 children.
"We can see how they really enjoy these days," said Tolvanen, who is participating in his third development camp with the Predators. "It was nice to see the kids smiling. Playing basketball was a lot of fun."
Armour and Kondelik showed off their popcorn making skills, while Tolvanen and Novak challenged some children to a game of basketball. Later, the children were proud to race (and beat) the Nashville rookies in the inflatable obstacle course.
Greg McCoy, president of the TN Baptist Children's Homes, expressed his appreciation for the Predators playing a part in today's activities.
"We provide them with opportunities to be kids," he told the group of Preds players, "and you being out here today is a big part of that.''
The kids left the carnival with snow-cone dyed lips, autographs, and memories that will last a lifetime.
By Hannah Herzog
MyCanvas Mobile Youth Community Arts:
Since its inception in 2014, MyCanvas Mobile Youth Community Arts has offered a series of music and art workshops to underserved and at-risk youth in North Nashville. With the mission of supporting identity development, healthy coping skills and community resiliency, MyCanvas provides opportunities to children with otherwise limited access to the arts.
Prospects David Farrance (2017 third-round pick), Tomas Vomacka (2017 fifth-round pick) and Andrew Coxhead (camp invite) spent the afternoon painting with youth and serving up ice cream sundaes at MyCanvas.
"It's really nice to spend time with the kids here at MyCanvas and work on some art projects with them," Farrance said. "Tomas, Andrew and I really appreciate the hard work that goes into something like this, and it's been great to give back to the Nashville community."
Throughout their three years of collaboration, MyCanvas and the Predators Foundation have worked to increase the number of children who are able to benefit from these services. In 2018, MyCanvas was selected as one of the Foundation's featured dharities. MyCanvas Co-founder and Operations Coordinator Janet Arning spoke to the impact that this partnership has had on their operation:
"For us, and for our organization that's small in Nashville, [being selected] gives us a huge boost," Arning said. "Any time we were able to say, 'We are one of the Nashville Predators' featured charities,' it helps to increase awareness of what we're doing here with the children and that partnership has taken us to a different level. We're just so grateful for the funding and volunteer work, and we look forward to having a great relationship for years to come."
By Emily Polanowicz