This past year marked a continued commitment by Brightspot to serve its community through a variety of events and projects aimed at providing rewarding and life-changing experiences to those less fortunate.
Riding through the Snow
Brightspot closed 2014 by spreading holiday cheer to 50 children at two Washington, DC YMCA branches. On Tuesday morning, December 16, employees put down their keyboards and picked up their wrenches, and with help from The Bike Lane, provided 50 children with a new Trek bicycle and helmet to kick off the holiday season.
“Bicycles are such an important rite of passage that teach kids about goal setting, patience, hand-eye coordination, and healthy living,” shares Angie Reese-Hawkins, President & CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington. “We are so grateful for this timely donation by Brightspot to spread cheer this holiday season with a gift that will keep giving.”
A Summer to Remember
Brightspot's involvement with the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington began in the summer of 2013, sponsoring 10 children to attend a week at Camp Letts in Edgewater, Maryland, along the Chesapeake Bay. This past year, Brightspot expanded its commitment, offering 20 scholarships for a two-week, sleep-away camp experience.
Starting in April, a committee ofBrightspot employees began reviewing applications from prospective campers, learning about their current interests and future dreams.
Sarah Tarpley, Director of Operations, served on this committee and helped select the recipients. “The children we chose to attend Camp Letts had such inspiring dreams of becoming teachers, artists, doctors, even computer programmers! I hope this experience at camp – learning new skills and making new friends – is one they will remember for a lifetime.”
“Camp Letts simply allows kids to be kids. They spend their days running around with new friends enjoying the outdoors,” said Andrew Mason, Camp Letts’ Executive Director. “Brightspot’s generosity the past two summers has helped provide this opportunity for low-income District youths, who benefit so much from this freedom.”
Brightspot Plays Unified
Throughout the year, Brightspot employees not only worked on a variety of Special Olympics digital projects, but also joined athletes on the slopes and on the field as teammates in Unified snowboarding and softball competitions.
In January, Brightspot helped welcome Olympic and X Games gold medalist, Hannah Teter, as the newest Special Olympics Global Ambassador by sponsoring a Unified snowboard race in Aspen, Colorado. Brightspot employees and top snowboarders in the world partnered with Special Olympics athletes from around the country in a dual giant slalom race down Aspen Mountain.
“I am so excited for my new role with Special Olympics and appreciative of Brightspot's sponsorship of today’s Unified competition,” reflected Teter. “The snowboarders on the mountain with us today were awesome!”
In addition to the Unified race, Brightspot employees and their Special Olympics partners attended multiple X Games events throughout the weekend, including the Men’s Superpipe finals.
In August, at Ossian Hall Park in Annandale, Special Olympians from Virginia’s Area 26 and Brightspot employees divided into two teams for a five-inning softball game. The Special Olympians, fresh off a trip to the Special Olympics Virginia State Summer Games in Richmond, led the way with great fielding and hitting, inspiring their Brightspot teammates at every turn.
“Playing together, as teammates, was such a great experience,” reflected Parker Ramsdell, a Brightspot employee. “Over the course of the year, our company works on a number of Special Olympics projects. Coming out tonight and playing side-by-side with these athletes makes those projects much more meaningful. Tonight was really something special!”
A Capitol Hole-in-One
For the third consecutive year, Brightspot worked together with the Tiger Woods Foundation to provide a unique experience for golfers from a wide range of backgrounds. Sponsoring the Monday pro-am, which kicked off the Quicken Loans National, Brightspot welcomed 18 youth golfers from The First Tee, 10 top-ranked golfers from Special Olympics, and 6 wounded veterans from Feherty’s Troops First Foundation to compete alongside PGA TOUR professionals at Congressional Country Club’s famed Blue Course.
Sam Wimbrow of The First Tee of Charlotte, Kasey Torres of The First Tee of South Los Angeles, and Matthew Gang, a Special Olympics athlete from Virginia, were paired with Jordan Spieth, who spent the round impressed by the skills and maturity of these young golfers. “Sam, Kasey, and Matthew hit some awesome shots throughout the round," reflected Spieth. "Congressional’s tournament conditions are so challenging, but they went out there and attacked every hole. The energy and excitement on the course, especially from Matthew, made the day truly special.”
After playing in last year’s Pro-Am, Jordan joined with Brightspot to co-host this year’s event. With his Charitable Trust dedicated to helping special needs children, providing opportunities for youth golfers, and honoring veterans, the partnership made a great fit, and Jordan’s presence created memorable moments throughout the afternoon.
An incredible afternoon on the course, filled with memories for all who played and watched, left everyone inspired by the sights. For the golfers from The First Tee, however, the week was just getting started.
On Tuesday morning, The First Tee golfers arrived at Brightspot eager to learn more about the company’s work and different career opportunities. After hearing about several Brightspot clients and meeting with designers, product managers, and developers about how a website goes from idea to reality, the golfers sat down for a one-on-one conversation with a Brightspot employee, learning about their career choices and searching for advice on school and life.
Wednesday saw the golfers return to the course, playing a round at the Country Club of Fairfax. Placed into teams and competing in a variety of formats throughout the round, the golfers shared moments of joy and frustration walking the hilly course.
That evening, they returned to D.C. to visit a variety of American landmarks and monuments that would leave them in awe. With the sun setting, they ascended the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. As President Lincoln towered behind them they stood together at the spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. shared his “Dream” with the world. They quietly made their way past the Vietnam War Memorial, taking in the thousands of names of Americans who lost their lives, with a deeper appreciation for that sacrifice from the experience of playing beside wounded veterans earlier in the week. With night having fallen, the excursion ended at the World War II Memorial, where they walked around the perimeter, proudly finding their state’s pillar and reading the inspiring quotes of sacrifice and heroism.
Their final day, the young golfers walked Congressional, watching the same pros they had played with earlier in the week compete in the first round of the Quicken Loans National. While at the course, they received a behind-the-scenes tour of the tournament, now in full swing. They started the morning asking questions of the tour director and learning the ins and outs that go in to bringing the event to life. They visited the CBS production truck and saw all of the moving parts that are required to broadcast the tournament. They learned about ShotLink, the technology used to track each player and provide information to golfers and viewers. Lastly, after making their way to the 18th hole green, they were met by Nick Faldo, who came down from the broadcast tower to join the group for a picture.
In what is quickly becoming one of the most unique events on the PGA TOUR, the Brightspot Pro Am, spotlighting golfers from Special Olympics, Feherty’s Troops First Foundation, and The First Tee, provides opportunities for friendship, inspiration, and personal growth, but more importantly, memories and stories each of the golfers will tell for a lifetime.
New Sites for Special Olympics
Since its founding over 6 years ago, Brightspot has partnered with Special Olympics to design and develop powerful and engaging websites to help advance its movement providing opportunities to individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Drawing on the skills of designers and developers throughout the company, throughout 2014, Brightspot completed an array of projects to help Special Olympics achieve its goals.
With the 2015 Special Olympics World Games less than one year away, in September 2014, Brightspot launched a new online experience for LA2015. The new site aims to be a valuable and inspiring destination that tells the story of this monumental spectacle, the largest sporting and humanitarian event in 2015. As the Games grow near, Brightspot will continue working with LA2015 to provide a unique online experience for visitors from around the world, as well as sending employees to Los Angeles to volunteer at the Games next summer.
Additionally, Brightspot has provided web designs to help promote two major initiatives around the LA2015 World Games – the Youth Summit and the Unified Relay. The Youth Summit brings together teenagers from around the world to brainstorm and plan community efforts focused on spreading awareness, promoting inclusion, and developing a greater understanding of individuals with intellectual disabilities. The Unified Relay, inspired by the 1984 Olympics, will provide nationwide excitement and anticipation to the LA2015 World Games as three torches snake their way from Miami, Florida; Washington, DC; and Augusta, Maine across the country to the Opening Ceremony at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
In August, Special Olympics kicked off a brand new global marketing campaign, Play Unified. Targeted towards youth engagement, Brightspot developed a sleek, modern website that shares inspiring stories of unity helping promote and grow Special Olympics Unified Sports. As red balls, the symbol of Unified Sports, spread throughout our communities, the Play Unified movement will help usher in a new generation of supporters, volunteers, and donors dedicated not just to providing athletic opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, but also to joining them, as teammates, on the playing field.
To mark the 25th Anniversary of Christmas Record Grants, which has provided millions of dollars to Special Olympics programs throughout the world, Brightspot designed and developed an interactive map highlighting several case studies of how this money has impacted athletes globally. This new feature of the Very Special Christmas website is a powerful tool for showing the wide-reaching effect these albums and artists have had on thousands of Special Olympians.
More to Come in 2015
As we turn the calendar to 2015, we are excited by the challenge and prospect of expanding the reach and impact of our mission-based efforts. Between hosting the Brightspot Pro-Am at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, returning to Aspen for more Unified Snowboarding, sending a team of employees to volunteer at the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles, and much more, Brightspot will leave its mark in 2015, touching the lives of thousands.
Through the ongoing support of our partners and clients, we look forward to continue working within our community, providing unique opportunities to at-risk children, veterans, and individuals with intellectual disabilities.