Thanking Medical Heroes, Helping Restaurants

Meaningful effort to show appreciation of area health care employees

by Derek Mason

RTI Journey is a series written by the Vanderbilt football head coach as part of his continuing message to Vanderbilt student-athletes and Commodore Nation.


It’s amazing what a simple thought or a goodwill gesture can turn into.

Like many across America right now, it has become our evening ritual for Leighanne and I to sit in our living room, catching up on the latest COVID-19 news. The news provides context to the severity of the virus and the medical and social steps that will need to be taken to quickly contain its spread. The response to the virus has called for the immediate closing of non-essential businesses and we find ourselves strictly adhering to social distancing protocols. As a direct result of the ferocious nature of the virus, some city’s healthcare systems and workforces quickly became overwhelmed with a lack of resources and manpower.

One evening, these issues sparked a conversation around what Leighanne and I could do to help. Many of our favorite local restaurants have closed, while the others have converted to strictly takeout and delivery options to stay afloat. Conversely, medical staffs continue to report daily to work. Doctors, nurses, lab technicians, pharmacists and testing site volunteers are facing longer shifts, longer days and emotional exhaustion in the midst of the pandemic.

If 1+1=2, then maybe we could provide some relief for both entities by connecting struggling restaurants with people who are on the front line fighting to save lives. What if we could help local restaurants keep their staffs employed by ordering delivery to #FeedOurHeroes. Maybe it could work! On top of that, in the American spirit of coaching, we decided to incorporate a #CoachesChallenge. My colleagues and I became coaches for the opportunity to impact others, and this challenge provided just that.

Today, #FeedOurHeroes has had a small yet powerful impact on our Nashville community. Leighanne and I purchased meals from 10 local restaurants to feed 700 individuals across 16 different medical sites. Because of this movement and others like it, we have seen small businesses across the city meet the needs of our communities. There is always an opportunity to help those around us. No matter how big or small the act, the effect of the actions we take can be like soup for the soul.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
– Haruki Murakami