above: Through bKYND, Brad Davis is having a major impact on children’s physical and mental well-being.
In 2006, during his freshman year at Greenwich High School, Bradley Davis was diagnosed with leukemia. At the time, he was a student athlete with serious dreams of playing water polo in college. Instead, he spent his high school years fighting cancer at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Westchester County. After his long treatment resulted in a cure, the 2009 Greenwich magazine Teen to Watch headed for Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, eager for the fresh start he deserved.
“In many ways, it was great. I made friends, joined a fraternity and started to have some of the social experiences I had really missed out on in high school,” he says. “But as the dust settled, I realized I no longer had the security blanket of Greenwich. I fell behind, and I couldn’t keep up. I had spent so much time just focused on getting from one day to the next for so long when I was in treatment that I realized I had never dealt with the emotional issues that came with what I had been through.”
Davis began to experience severe social anxiety and depression. “I felt like I was in quicksand,” he says. “And, of course, I felt guilty that I had been given this second chance, but I was in such a dark place.”
As he searched for help, he discovered there were real gaps for teens and young adults in need of mental health services.
“Just getting an appointment was hard,” he says. “Finding someone I could afford to talk to was even harder.” Although he eventually reached out to family and got the treatment he needed, he says: “The whole experience made me realize too many young people who go through this don’t have a shot.”
The struggles inspired Davis to launch the bKYND Company, a Nashville-based holistic wellness enterprise targeted at helping young people lead healthier, happier lives.
Since its 2021 inception, the startup has partnered with several metro Nashville public schools and community organizations to offer fitness classes with a social/emotional twist. The bKYND program offers HITT-style high-intensity workout classes during and after school, with fitness sessions followed by lessons from young adult coaches on topics ranging from nutrition and self-esteem to the relentless pressures of social media.
Long-term, Davis plans for bKYND to offer affordable mental health services, nutrition counseling and more holistic health services to adolescents. He also hopes to expand the program to other communities, perhaps including Greenwich, someday.
“My goal for all of this is to make the kids we work with more happy, confident and ultimately healthier, whether it’s on the field or in their everyday lives,” says Davis. “It’s exactly the kind of thing I wish I had had when I was young.”
So far, bKYND is off to a strong start. Davis has expanded from a startup team of three to a staff of fourteen part-time coaches, many of them recent graduates from nearby Belmont University. “I think by having young adults on the team, the kids can really relate to them and see them as role models,” he explains.
Founding bKYND has also been healing for Davis, who now looks on his health adversities with gratitude. “I came out on the other side, and it changed the trajectory of my life,” he says. “So, as hard as it was, I wouldn’t change it.”
Meanwhile, Davis says he’s also accomplished a goal he set for himself fourteen years ago when first featured on these pages. “As much as the whole [Teens to Watch] experience came with a great sense of pride, it always made me feel some pressure to prove you guys got it right,” he says with a laugh. “So the goal was always to do something that would make you want to write about me again.”