by Jas Faulkner, Nashville Correspondent
When it comes to the Predators, underneath all of that armour beats some of the kindest hearts in Nashville. The linchpin of the club’s charitable activities is undoubtedly the Nashville Predators’ Foundation, which has been an important part of the community since its inception in 1997. However, the ways in which the club gives back to the city can go beyond the official aegis of the foundation. In many instances, these initiatives are more than just good PR, they’re deeply personal expressions of what is important to these athletes when they’re not on the ice.
Many fans who come here from other NHL markets have expressed how family friendly they find Nashville’s hockey culture to be. A mother from Toronto who was interviewed during the Predator’s G.O.A.L. program earlier this year recounted how she kept thinking something was missing when she went back home and attended a Leaf’s game. “As I was walking around Air Canada Centre, it finally hit me what was missing that I had gotten used to in Nashville. There were almost no children at the game! It really makes a difference in the energy when they’re not there.”
The love many kids have for the Predators is returned by the team, support and coaching staff, many of whom are parents themselves. Aside from the excellent outreach done by the people responsible for the promotional efforts of Gnash, whose blue, furry eminence is always greeted by cheers and hugs from his young fans, there are regular appearances by the players for causes that educate and benefit young Nashville. Team members appear at libraries to promote literacy, encourage an active, healthy lifestyle through the various hockey education programs, and offer their support to various health and anti-poverty programs.
This year, a new program to benefit the children of Nashville was introduced to Predsnation. Kids Come First, created by two of Nashville’s veteran players, Steve Sullivan and J-P Dumont affords children who might otherwise never get to go, the chance to see a hockey game from the comfort of a sky box. This program, which is funded entirely by Dumont and Sullivan alternates home games between the charities of their choice for the season. For Dumont, the choice was an easy one, and on his nights, the occupants are patients and their families from Monroe Carell Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Sullivan has elected to allow families and children who are pursuing involvement in youth ice hockey leagues to use the box on his nights.
In this three-part series, we will hear why these causes are so important to Sullivan and Dumont and we will talk to the agencies that benefit from the program to see how families are chosen and what happens when they pay a visit to Bridgestone Arena. Come back tomorrow when J-P Dumont talks about Monroe Carell Children’s Hospital and we see why this program is so important to some of Nashville’s youngest and sometimes most fragile fans.
Jas Faulkner is a minimally socialised writer and artist who lives and works in Nashville, Tennessee. She hearts her attitude problem.