On July 25, a team of thirty-six Brightspot employees and family members, partners from Imaginary Forces and Cisco, and high school students from Inglewood headed to Los Angeles to volunteer at the 2015 Special Olympics World Games, this year's largest sporting and humanitarian event in the world. From the instant the plane landed in LA, they were put to work, and for the next eight whirlwind days, never stopped.
Upon arriving, the team headed directly to the LA2015 offices where they were briefed on their role for that evening's Opening Ceremony. Brightspot took the lead pairing honored guests with delegations during the Parade of Athletes. A complete team effort, moving guests from the stands to the parade and back to their seats, Brightspot paired over 500 guests to march with athletes and coaches representing 165 countries. Entering the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to deafening cheers, the Parade of Athletes and Opening Ceremony set the stage for what proved to be an inspiring, life-changing week celebrating the abilities of these courageous athletes.
The next morning at 5:00am, the team reported to the starting line of the triathlon, the first of 16 Unified Sports Experiences (USE) that the Brightspot team would oversee during the World Games. Continuing its long-standing support of Unified Sports, Brightspot helped execute these 16 exhibition events that provided foreign dignitaries, professional athletes, celebrities, and other honored guests to take the field and join Special Olympics athletes as teammates. From Pete Sampras playing tennis doubles, to Apolo Ohno racing in a roller skating relay, and George Lopez teeing off in a foursome, the week was complete with story after story of people from all walks of life coming together as teammates, creating greater understanding and celebrating, for all the world to see, the values of inclusion and acceptance.
During these 16 events, over 1400 individuals participated, and the Brightspot team was at every one -- organizing teams, distributing uniforms, managing the event flow, and handing out medals. For those that participated as teammates, the thousands who filled the stands to cheer, and those, like our team, that worked behind the scenes to bring them to life, the Unified Sports Experiences left a lasting impact.
Our work with LA2015, however, extended far beyond one week of Unified Sports Experiences. The Closing Ceremony on August 2, marked the conclusion of a four year relationship between Brightspot and LA2015 when the city was first awarded the bid to host the Games. Over the past four years and three site redesigns, scores of employees at Brightspot played a major role in bringing the Games to life online -- spreading awareness and excitement to fans around the world.
In Their Own Words
Margaret Blakemore - Imaginary Forces
There were so many fun, exciting, and inspiring moments that week, that it's hard to pick just one. I think my favorite experience was greeting one of the Honored Guests for the Golf event. When she stepped out of the car, she was so glamorous, that I immediately froze, worried about how to greet such a high profile guest. But as we guided her to the sign-in table, her voice was trembling with excitement. She told us that she'd been looking forward to the event for a long time, especially to meeting the athletes, and that she was so very honored to have been invited. Throughout the day, it was so much fun to see how excited the athletes were to meet and take photos with her!
Having the opportunity to play with the athletes was my favorite part of participating in the Special Olympics. I was able to play my favorite sport, volleyball. I was so nervous because I didn't want to be the one to blame if we lost. But when we played it was so much fun, everyone was encouraging each other and had smiles on their faces. With all of us working together as a team, we did win and received medals. The jerseys were really cool too. Overall it was one of the best experiences of my life.
James Coutry - Brightspot
A special moment to me was when we first arrived. We were scrambling around to get to the Coliseum and get situated for the Opening Ceremony. Once we arrived, absolutely exhausted from that morning's cross-country flight, Parker did a quick walk through and before we knew it the ceremony began. I was standing on the field and saw one athlete marching down the red carpet. He was looking into the stands and his eyes were filled with tears of joy. At that moment, it hit me how much this meant.
Nicole Kilaita - Cisco
My most memorable moment was the USE Beach Volleyball. The weather was perfect and the crowd was great. More importantly, I was touched to see the special olympic athletes, honored guests, and celebrities join forces and play together as one. Their various backgrounds did not stop them from playing as a family. It was very fun to see how excited everyone was to play. I felt great towards the end of the event when the athletes would come up to us and thank us for setting up these games. It definitely made me more excited to help out after each event.
Dylan Gang - Brightspot
I have two favorite moments. The first is seeing the high school girls from South Central that volunteered with us play volleyball with the athletes. They were nervous and reluctant to play at first but ultimately had an amazing time. The other that was so rewarding was watching every athlete leave the field after each USE with the biggest smiles. Knowing how much effort went into running each event, it was gratifying to see how much it meant to those that participated.
Linda Nakagawa - Imaginary Forces
The Opening Ceremonies were exceptional! I brought my whole family to the event, and each one of us jumped out of our seats to cheer on the athletes. We loved hearing the emotional stories about both triumphs and failures (and everything in between). Seeing how excited the athletes were to represent their countries and their teams was our favorite part, and we couldn't wait to start helping out with the games!
My most memorable moment at the Special Olympics was when we were watching the softball game and one of the athletes kept running out after every play to say hi and wave to all of us in the crowd helping us cheer on his teammates. He did that for the whole game and it was so sweet because every time he came out he made everybody happy. Participating in the Special Olympics taught me that everyone no matter who they are should be treated like they matter.
Jenny Daly - Brightspot
My most memorable experience was Opening Ceremony because it was so big with the thousands of athletes and honored guests. I was responsible for guiding the honored guests out of the Parade of Athletes and back to their seats. I was right there in the front watching everyone march down the red carpet and seeing the excitement on everyone's face and the anticipation of what was to come was really uplifting.
Parker Ramsdell - Brightspot
One of my favorite moments was during the Table Tennis USE. One of our honored guest was paired with an athlete from Russia. We were running around like crazy trying to find a Russian translator to help them communicate during their game. Unfortunately, the competitions had finished for the evening and most of the translators had left. I saw them afterward and asked how it went and the honored guest was beaming. It didn't matter that they couldn't speak to each other, the competition itself was communication enough. The great shots, the celebrations, the smiles -- the language of competition -- was universal and they loved every second of it. That moment taught me a very valuable lesson about what it really takes to understand and communicate with someone.
Glynis Condon - Brightspot
My most memorable moment was our first day during the Opening Ceremony. Our responsibility was to facilitate the Parade of Athletes. It was so special to see the incredible joy, anticipation, and excitement on the athletes' faces. Seeing so many athletes representing countries from around the globe was just incredible.
Ashley Krauss - Brightspot
I worked the tunnel for the Opening Ceremony at the LA Coliseum. The tunnel served as the entrance point for the athlete parade. I was stationed at the end of the tunnel, right before the athletes and honored guests walked out on the field. We had just arrived that day and I had no idea what to expect. I saw so many happy faces, with such incredible enthusiasm, it was contagious! Athletes from different countries were all cheering each other on and high-fiving. I have never seen such genuine camaraderie between opposing teams, proving that it's not about winning, but about playing the game together.