In the last few weeks, as the Nashville Predators worked on the ice to cement the team’s place in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the wives and girlfriends of the Preds’ coaches, players and Hockey Operations staff were working off the ice on a special project of their own.
The special project of the Preds’ wives and girlfriends was transforming the bedroom of young cancer patient Mary Keith, who suffers from Ewing’s Sarcoma, in conjunction with Special Spaces. A Nashville Predators Foundation Grant recipient, Special Spaces is dedicated to “changing children’s lives one bedroom at a time,” and helping provide children with serious illnesses rooms that are a place of hope, inspiration, peace and comfort.
Rhonda McCarthy, wife of Assistant Coach Kevin McCarthy, became the representative for Special Spaces in Nashville after getting involved with the organization soon after moving to Music City. She took the lead on getting the Predators wives and girlfriends involved in this room makeover.
As the organization's representative in Nashville, McCarthy had the opportunity to be involved with Keith’s interview; meeting her family, talking to her and learning about her favorite things and colors and what her “dream room” would look like.
“After the interview, a bunch of the wives and girlfriends went out to get a look at the room,” McCarthy said. “I wanted everyone to meet Mary [Keith] because it truly makes a difference when you know who you’re doing this for.”
Keith’s dream was a Paris-themed room, designed around a giant poster of Paris that she had already. The Preds had the poster professionally mounted by one of the team’s corporate partners and then began work on filing the rest of the room with things that would transport Keith and her sister, with whom she shared the room, to the “City of Light.”
“Some of [the wives and girlfriends] would find something they liked that reminded them of Paris, and they’d buy it,” McCarthy said. “We did a lot of shopping and a lot of talking – finding everything from the pillows and mattress covers to the closet organizers and hangers; everything that would make the room functional, as well as pretty.”
In the days leading up to the actual remodel day, McCarthy and Nona Fenton, wife of Preds Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton, hosted a meeting prior to a Preds home game where they showed items that had been purchased to solidify design ideas. A few days before the event, the wives and girlfriends all met up at McCarthy’s house to do a little pre-build work, like starting to put together furniture and painting.
Although the room makeover project wasn’t a first for McCarthy, who has been involved in similar makeover projects while her husband coached in Philadelphia and Carolina, the eight-hour time table that Special Spaces works under was a new wrinkle in the plan.
“One of my concerns was that this had to happen in eight hours – everything we were going to do,” McCarthy said. “The room was hot pink and we were painting it grey and light blue so the girls really had their work cut out for them… But the wives and girlfriends of the Predators are really hard workers, it was very impressive.”
The eight-hour time table proved no match for the team and at the end of the day, the new Paris-themed room was revealed to Keith and her family.
“It was probably the best reaction from a child that I can remember from all the other rooms I’ve done,” McCarthy said. “She was just awesome, she touched everything, she screamed and she and her sister were jumping up and down. It was really great and just so rewarding.”
While painting and redecorating may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, projects like the ones that Special Spaces does have a huge impact on everyone involved.
“That one moment the child walks in the room, the child isn’t sick anymore, they just think
about how happy they are and how pretty their room is,” McCarthy said. “It’s amazing the difference it makes in their lives, for their parents and for the child.”
For details on how to get involved with Special Spaces, including how to nominate a deserving child for a room makeover, visit Specialspaces.org. More information on the Nashville Predators Foundation and the other organizations that the Foundation helps support through its grant program can be found at Nashvillepredators.com/foundation.