When you have a wish kid who loves hockey and construction equipment, how do you create a life-changing experience for him? You call on your friends the Nashville Predators, Thompson CAT, Jones Bros and Neely Coble Company to make it happen!
Since Devin and his family moved to Nashville last year, he’s been a Preds fan. He said his favorite thing about the team is that they work together. Devin is equally passionate about big trucks and big machines. Devin is currently in the middle of a yearlong treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare pediatric cancer with an aggressive treatment plan.
Make-A-Wish called on our partners at the Nashville Predators and the Nashville Predators Foundation as well as local contractors and equipment companies to combine both of Devin's passions into one great wish. Ultimately, Devin decided he wanted to ride to a Nashville Predators game in a semi truck.
The Nashville Predators and the Nashville Predators Foundation have a decade-long partnership with Make-A-Wish Middle Tennessee. For Devin's wish, they went above and beyond to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience. On Wednesday, March 21, the Nashville Predators signed Devin to a contract with the team. His official team jersey had his last name and his favorite number: #51. Whey asked why he chose 51, Devin said he saw it in a movie once. (Special thanks to Austin Watson, the original #51 for sharing his number.) Devin was treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of Bridgestone Arena before taking part in the official team photo.
After the photo, it was time for practice. Devin and his dad watched the practice from the bench. Throughout the morning, the players made it a point to offer Devin a fist bump and encouraging words. That time on the sidelines gave Devin's dad, Steven, a chance to be a "hockey dad." The whole family didn't have to worry about Devin's medical stats. They could take a breath and enjoy two days of fun. After the morning practice, Devin got suited up (with some help from Dad and P.K. Subban) and hit the ice. He even had the opportunity to take shots on his favorite player, Pekka Rinne, and get into a "fight" with team captain Roman Josi. Devin ended Day 1 of his wish with lunch at The Palm with some of the players.
Day 2 was all about the big machines. The day began with a limo ride to Thompson Machinery in LaVergne and a Jones Bros construction site in Mt. Juliet. Employees from each location took time to show Devin how the machines worked and allowed him to ride all the trucks. All. The. Trucks.
Later that afternoon, Devin and his family were the only ones at their hotel's valet stand that were picked up by a semi truck. Mr. Terry from Neely Coble Company arrived in a shiny red Freightliner. Devin's face broke out in a huge smile as he climbed up in the truck to take a look around. After a quick ride around Downtown Nashville, Devin arrived at Bridgestone Arena, greeted by a swarm of fans, including Gnash, Maverick and the Nashville Predators Ice Girls. All were ready to meet the newest Nashville Predator player.
Prior to the game Devin and his sister, Hannah, rode the Zamboni and helped prepare the ice for the game. Next, he spent some time in the team's locker room while the team got ready for their game against the Maple Leafs. Devin even had his own locker! He then escorted the team to the ice for warm-up. Next Devin, his family and some of their close friends made their way to their suite. The Preds made sure it was stocked with all of Devin's favorite things, including chicken and a Kit-Kat cake. Devin and Hannah played musical chairs during a period break, and Devin was named Mayor of Smashville and rallied the crowd.
Throughout the night, Devin and his entourage hosted visitors in their suite. Some of the players' wives and girlfriends who work closely with the Preds Foundation, stopped by to welcome the family to the game and brought goodie bags for all of the kids. A family from the neighboring suite has a tradition of picking a player to root for each game. They heard a news story about Devin signing with the Preds the day before and created posters to cheer him on at the game. At the end of the night, Devin's two-day adventure ended with autographs from the team.
“I can’t express how this made him feel,” said his mother, Stephanie. “And the things he’s been able to do since, this has kept him going, kept him excited, kept him wanting to do things.” The effects, Stephanie said, have been profound.
“It’s been amazing and it’s still flowing and it’s still happening,” Stephanie said. “It’s the happiness it has given him and the hope it has given us.”
Devin still has a way to go with his treatment, but, like his teammates, he has strength, courage, a winning spirit and a heart of gold.