In 1998, dozens of possibilities were rattled off about all that the new NHL franchise in town could bring to Nashville.
Entertainment, larger city profile and an economic boost were the most beneficial characteristics in many people’s eyes, but what the Nashville Predators would ultimately give back to the community probably should have been No. 1.
Over the 16 years the Predators have been in town, the dollars and time given to schools, charities and non-profits by the Nashville Predators Foundation is staggering. But getting caught up in the numbers–like the over $400 thousand the Foundation gave away this past week–isn’t really the point. It’s the impact made in the lives of the people on the receiving end that has a lasting effect.
“Years ago when the Foundation was created, we wanted to make a difference in the community. We’ve been able to use the generosity of our players and fans to make something even bigger than what we first hoped for,” Predators president Sean Henry said. “When you get the leverage and passion of our fans, employees and players–and you create something a lot bigger than just the wins and losses on the ice–that’s really impactful. It’s really rewarding.”
One of the greatest beneficiaries of the Predators charity over the past few years has been Lighthouse Christian School in Antioch, Tennessee. Known by some as the school that floated down Interstate 24 during the Nashville flood of 2010, Lighthouse offers quality education and low-priced tuition to students in the Middle Tennessee area.
“I’ve had the opportunity to be in a lot of cities, but I’ve never seen an organization be more active or giving out in the community. Even before the flood, the Predators were a friend of Lighthouse and a community partner,” Lighthouse headmaster Brian Sweatt said. “But right after the flood, they gave us the resources to completely renovate our science lab, which was incredibly helpful.”
One of the 117 grant recipients from the Predators earlier this month, Lighthouse has seen firsthand the joy and opportunities given to their students through the franchise.
“Last year at the Predators Christmas party, one of the young ladies at our school that’s deaf was given an iPad. She was then able to download some of the hearing-impaired apps that have greatly helped her in her educational progress,” said Sweatt.
“Being a Predators fan myself, it was really cool to see all that the team helped our school with this year,” Elizabeth Willis, a teacher at Lighthouse said. “They helped to give us a renovated gymnasium, technology in the classroom and even just the unique experience of being able to take some of our students to their first ever hockey game.”
The path of the dollars given by the Nashville Predators Foundation is fascinating to watch, especially when you see what they can do for a child. What starts in the world of power plays and icings can end up in the chemistry lab or on the basketball court.
Lighthouse is proof of that.
“Our Foundation is really great and gives out a lot of money during the year. We have a lot of good events and we give a lot away,” Predators forward Patric Hornqvist said. “I’m proud, and the team should be too.”
“I’ve had the privilege to get to know probably 50 people in the Predators organization, and I think every one of them has a heart for others. Starting at the top they’ve got great direction in giving back, even Jeff Cogen their CEO comes and reads to our preschoolers,” Sweatt said. “We’re a better community here in Nashville because the Nashville Predators are here, and I think that’s the greatest compliment you can give any organization. Their generous hearts and giving spirit help us all.”
Sometimes, however, it only takes the simplest measuring stick to find the impact made, and that’s what Willis points to.
“Even my most quiet student gets loud at a Predators game.” Willis said with a smile. “I think I get why.”