The holiday season is a beautiful time of year.
Just consider the outpouring of affection, warmth and kindness that's brought to light during the last few weeks of December.
Picture all the great holiday memories you've made in the past. The times you've bonded with family, friends and loved ones. The moments where you laughed, cried and remembered all the reasons to be thankful.
Think of how you've celebrated in the past. Maybe you huddled for warmth around the fireplace, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate. Perhaps you spent your time stringing holiday lights for all to see. Or maybe you went to bed early, anxiously awaiting an opportunity to open up gifts.
Now imagine that was all taken away from you.
Every memory you've made, every memory you would have made - gone.
For many of the refugee families at Nashville's Nations Ministry Center, that's been the case for quite some time. These families have been persecuted, fled their home countries and were welcomed with open arms by the United States.
But they've never truly experienced the magic of the holiday season.
This year, Preds forwards Austin Watson and Colton Sissons teamed up with the Nashville Predators Foundation and SmileDirectClub to make that happen. Weeks of preparation led to their annual holiday party, yielding a lifetime of memories.
"It's really important to me. Really, it's important to all of us," Watson, dressed head-to-toe in an elf costume, said on Sunday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena. "We're lucky to be in a position to celebrate together with our families, but we're also in a position to give back and let these refugee families experience an American Christmas."
Video: Preds themed holiday cookies
Amidst the hockey season, Watson and Sissons set aside time to plan the party for 110 children from the Nation's Ministry Center. The result was better than anyone could have imagined.
"It was awesome," Sissons said. "We had Christie Cookies come on board. We raised some money, so we can just make the party even better and get some more presents for the families to open up."
Their preparation began in aprons, inviting the Nashville community to join in their charitable efforts. The two sold cookies at Christie Cookies back in November to raise money, ultimately fueling the second stage of the process.
"Big Walmart day for me and Watty," Sissons said with an ear-to-ear smile.
After a midweek practice, they took a trip to Walmart to buy a number of gifts for the children to unwrap during Sunday's holiday party.
"We like to shop for the fun stuff," Watson said. "We got some skateboards, some scooters, all the stuff that I can play with while I'm at Walmart. It's always just a blast to go around and pick out all the toys… It kind of takes you back to your childhood a little bit. It's special to be able to provide that for some kids."
Both Watson and Sissons credited the entire Predators organization for their efforts coordinating the event, which included wrapping hundreds of gifts, decorating Bridgestone Arena's Lexus Lounge and of course, skating with the children.
"I can't thank our organization enough," Watson said.
On the day of the party, the children entered the lounge with excitement; they were greeted by Watson and Sissons, who helped them lace up skates and put helmets on before joining them on the ice. Then, magic ensued.
Video: Watson, Sissons help bring out smiles
In the arena, lights shined bright. Watson, Sissons and countless Predators employees took the ice, many holding hands with the children, to teach more than 100 how to skate.
"What's really nice is that it's clearly an organization-wide event," Predators Senior Vice President and Senior Advisor Gerry Helper said. "The staff participated by buying gifts for them, wrapping them, and Austin and Colton participated in that way. It really is an effort that the entire organization gets behind and participates in and should feel good about. When you get to the day and you see these kids here, you're going to watch them walk out with smiles on their faces and giant bags of gifts."
After their time skating, Watson and Sissons dined with the children in Lexus Lounge, before bringing them to Santa - one by one - to open their gifts. The reactions were extraordinary, as they laughed, smiled and screamed in excitement upon unwrapping their newest toys.
And the children will never forget their new holiday memories.
"I don't think you ever do anything for the reward, but I'll tell you what: when you leave here, you have a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that some really, really good kids got to experience a great day," Watson said. "They got all the presents they wanted and really just had a blast with their favorite toys. It blows me away, and I'm so happy to be a part of it."