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Preds Spread Love for Hockey, Friendship on Annual Community Day

Predators Players, Staff and Community Partners, Including BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Give Back to Nashville Community

by Nashville Predators @PredsNHL / NashvillePredators.com

Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt:

As soon as Thorrin Forslund walked in the room, he saw the beard.

"Ryan Ellis!" the 8-year-old exclaimed as he spotted his hero.

It wasn't the first time Thorrin had seen Ellis in person, but he was unable to get the words out to tell the Predators blueliner how much he meant to him on the first encounter.

Born with a congenital heart defect, spina bifida and omphalocele, Thorrin underwent his first surgery on the day he was born. Then came open-heart surgery. Next, it was spinal-cord surgery. Add those to other numerous trips to the operating room, and doctors believed Thorrin would never walk.

Years later - with Thorrin up and about and beating the odds - the Forslunds moved to Tennessee, their son functioning better than ever before. But in May of 2017, Thorrin became sick once more. He was rushed to Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, and it was there his life was saved again. Thorrin suffered seizures and strokes throughout his brain, and once more the prognosis was grim.

"They saved my life, and I was shocked!" Thorrin exclaimed in the hospital's butterfly atrium, puck in hand, gleeful as could be in the presence of the Preds.

In January of 2018, the day after Thorrin had surgery on both of his legs and left foot, the Forslunds were surprised with tickets to a Predators game by a doctor - a night that would change their lives.

After a Predators' win, the family made their way down to the locker room to meet with some of the players, Thorrin riding along in a red wagon. The first to emerge was Ellis, who knelt down and talked to Thorrin, calling him the Preds' good-luck charm.

"I was afraid the next morning that Thorrin, still suffering with memory, would forget meeting Ellis," Thorrin's mother Tori said. "When we talked to Thorrin about the game and the Predators players he met, he said, "Mommy, my favorite player is the one who got hurt on his leg.'"

Ellis, who was recovering from offseason knee surgery, made an impact on the family, enough so that Thorrin began using the defenseman as inspiration to keep fighting.

Fast forward to Preds Community Day at the hospital, with the entire Forslund family back for another appointment, Thorrin and Ellis were reunited. Holding back tears, Tori told Ellis what his story has meant to the family, how they've looked to him for strength and hope in their little boy.

"To watch the players be real and human, Ellis shows the human part," Tori said. "When Ellis got hurt, he showed that you can still overcome. Ellis didn't give up, so why should my son give up? And it makes it real.

"Life is hard, but you don't forget the good, and the Predators bring the good."

- Brooks Bratten

Preston Taylor Ministries:

It's quite simple - when the Predators team up with Nashville SC, everyone wins.

That fact was on display as Preds players Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Calle Jarnkrok joined forces with Nashville SC players Justin Davis, Michael Reed and Taylor Washington at Preston Taylor Ministries to make an impact in multiple ways.

First, the Predators Foundation and Nashville SC combined to present a check worth more than $2,700 to PTM with funds raised during Preds Night at a recent soccer game. The donation was a humbling start to the visit for the elementary and middle school-aged attendees of PTM, an organization whose goal is to build life-changing relationships for children living in the Preston Taylor public housing area.

Once the larger-than-life check made its way back to the sidelines, the gymnasium was split in half, with floor hockey on one side and soccer on the other. The athletes took a try on both sides of the floor, and some of the Preds proved to be just as skilled with a soccer ball as they are with a puck.

"Probably me," Josi grinned when asked which of his teammates is the best soccer player. "Probably, pretty sure me."

No matter who was best at their particular activity, the smiles never left the faces of all involved in the showing of community togetherness.

"I know the Preds take a lot of pride in getting out into the community, and we as players, we love doing it," Josi said. "We're always having fun doing stuff like that, and I think people appreciate it, too."

"To be around pro hockey players is really cool, and to see their skill and their interaction, I think the big thing we take from it is how athletes from other sports interact with kids," Reed said. "I think that's a big part for us is the involvement we have on the community and influence we can have on the youth. And the Preds were great with them. Take notes, they were great."

- Brooks Bratten

Christie Cookies:

A line of more than 100 people has stretched along 12 South in Nashville before. It happens most days even.

The often-photographed, sometimes-vandalized "I Believe in Nashville" mural usually has more than its fair share on those waiting in the queue - but not on Predators Community Day.

Dozens of fans in Gold anxiously awaited their chance to reach the Christie Cookie window. All of them were eager to meet Preds forwards Nick Bonino and Kevin Fiala, none of them were waiting to capture a mural-centric post for their Instagram.

"Our visit with Christie Cookie is unique in that it's open to the public," said Predators Senior Director of Community Relations Rebecca King. "Christie Cookie is giving a portion of the proceeds back to the Predators Foundation, so 20 percent from all day and 50 percent from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. while the guys are here. We had a line of 20 people when we showed up, and it's just continued to grow."

Cookie tins went one way, while cash earmarked for charity and the Preds Foundation went the other way. In between his 20th photo and autograph of they day, Bonino laughed as he realized he'd forgotten to swipe a starstruck fan's debit card again.

"Good thing we have so much demand, because we might have been fired by now if not," he joked.

- Thomas Willis

Sweet Sleep:

Predators players Dan Hamhuis, Viktor Arvidsson and Austin Watson traded in their hockey sticks for drill bits, lending their handyman skills to Sweet Sleep - an organization dedicated to providing beds to homeless children in Nashville.

Tasked with drilling, hammering and assembling 25 beds at the Nashville Baptist Church, it was clear Hamhuis had some prior experience in the woodwork department and was using it to his advantage.

"The other two (Arvidsson and Watson) didn't know it, but we were in a competition to see who could make the most beds," Hamhuis said with a laugh, drill always at the ready. "It's always fun to be able to get out here with some of the guys and give back."

Along with workers from Sweet Sleep and Predators employees, the players and volunteers made their way into an assembly line of sorts and quickly worked their way into a bed-making rhythm. Watson worked on the bed bases while Arvidsson and Hamhuis put together the headboards for the beds, which will go to an organization that has provided help for underprivileged children in eight different countries.

Sweet Sleep was founded in 2003 and has donated beds to more than 27,000 orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children, including more than 4,000 in the United States.

Hamhuis, who signed a two-year contract in the summer to return to the team that drafted him way back in 2001, was happy to be making an impact once again in the Nashville community.

"Nashville will always be a special place for me and my family and it's a great feeling to be able to help out this community in any way I can once again."

- Nick Barnowski

Video: Preds pause to play street hockey with children

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