Their chances of catching up to their opponents were slim to none, yet Brightspot employee Yash Trivedi and his teammate, Special Olympics athlete Tyler Lagasse, hadn’t given up just yet. Down two holes going into the seventh, they were cautiously optimistic about catching up to their competition on the Stripes team. Then, after a little pep talk and preparation, the unthinkable happened. The underdog Stars team ended up winning the next three holes, clinching their match and holding off a charge from the Stripes.
The green at the Club at Creighton Farms in Aldie, Virginia, was peppered with grey, red, blue and white polo shirts this past week, as men and women from around the country came together to play a friendly game of golf. Differences might have brought this group of teenagers, wounded veterans and individuals with mental disabilities together, but the Stars and Stripes teams quickly discovered that they shared a common goal: unifying and inspiring those around them.
This is precisely the objective of Brightspot’s annual Unified Challenge: to bridge the gap between differences and cultivate meaningful relationships with unlikely new friends. Through the various events offered during this memorable week, participants create meaningful connections, all while having a great deal of fun.
The Unified Challenge incorporates the essence of Brightspot’s overarching mission into activities that present robust opportunities for its participants. A total of 42 players participated in this past week’s 7th Annual Unified Challenge, including 18 youth coming from The First Tee, 12 wounded veterans hailing from across the country, and 12 Special Olympics athletes.
Upon arrival on Sunday, the group was welcomed by a picnic and team-building exercises. The next day, participants toured D.C., where they visited the U.S. Capitol, the National Air and Space Museum, the Natural History Museum and Arlington National Cemetery, before finishing off the evening with a walking tour of the monuments. Lagasse, a 13-time state champion and 3-time silver medalist at the Special Olympics Games, was especially touched by the visit to our Nation's Capital.
Every time I come to the DC area, I’m reminded of how special this nation is. It’s practically the center of the world because people from all walks of life come to this city to experience America. I’m reminded that it’s the people that built this nation. I feel grateful that I live in a country where you can accomplish anything no matter your limitations.
Tuesday kicked off the Ryder Cup-style team tournament, where the Stars and Stripes left everything on the course. By Wednesday, the tournament had concluded, and the Stars team emerged victorious (34 to 26). Though the tournament came to an end, the fun (and golf) didn’t stop there. The teams traveled to Topgolf that evening where they enjoyed a celebratory dinner, bonding over the week’s memorable moments on the green as well as new friendships forged.
I was incredibly humbled by the resilience of the kids from The First Tee. They were warriors in the heat and never stopped laughing the entire time. You could hear them, holes away, cheering each other on. Their bond is as solid as ours, and the future of the game is well in hand. These young leaders will continue to motivate and take us into the future.
The group concluded their trip on Thursday with a visit to Brightspot. The First Tee athletes and Special Olympians learned more about the company and its mission, while also looking toward the future and exploring possible career paths.
Following another successful Unified Challenge, Brightspot employees are already looking forward to what the rest of the summer holds. The company will be sponsoring a back-to-school drive for low-income students studying at Aldrin Elementary, just down the road from where Brightspot is headquartered. Additionally, a team of employees will be heading to Aldrin in early August to help build an outdoor classroom, which will be used by the students year-round.
Brightspot will also be returning to support this summer’s YMCA Thingamajig Invention Convention. This year, a team of volunteers will work individually with students who received Brightspot camp scholarships to build their own bikes, which they will be able to take home upon completion.