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2023 Mission Year in Review: Fostering unity and making a positive impact across the globe

Group of Brightspot employee volunteers with students at Aldrin Elementary School
From the streets of Berlin to the slopes of Aspen, Brightspot employees brought joy to people's lives worldwide through various service initiatives in 2023.

Throughout the year, Brightspot expanded past partnerships in the greater Washington area, engaged with new organizations nationwide and organized its first round of remote volunteer events to better engage remote employees in our commitment to giving back.

Over 12 months and 30 projects, Brightspot facilitated more than 500 opportunities for its employees to give back, resulting in a cumulative total of over 2,000 hours dedicated to volunteering in 2023.

Standing strong with Special Olympics

In 2023, Brightspot's partnership with Special Olympics continued to thrive: A team of 12 employees traveled to Berlin to support Special Olympics World Games; Special Olympics athletes from the United States and Canada traveled to Virginia to participate in the annual Brightspot Unified Challenge; employees volunteered at a variety of local Special Olympics Virginia events; and Brightspot continued to partner with Special Olympics to expand its digital presence across the globe.

Unbeatable together in Berlin

“Are you ready?”, the band Madcon asked the crowd gathered at the Olympiastadion for the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023 opening ceremony as fireworks lit up the night sky above. This moment began an inspiring and meaningful week for 12 Brightspot volunteers who traveled to Germany to serve as critical volunteers for the week-long World Games.

Group of Brightspot employee volunteers at 2023's Special Olympics Berlin

During their time in Berlin, the Brightspot team was tasked with organizing and managing the Unified Sports Experiences (USE), a series of 14 exhibition competitions that paired Special Olympics athletes and honored guests (professional athletes, celebrities, foreign dignitaries and sponsors) as teammates to promote and celebrate the ideals of inclusion. Brightspot volunteers played a critical role in event set-up, on-site event management and coordination of awards ceremonies to ensure the participants had a memorable and life-changing experience.

Later in the week at Messe Berlin, Brightspot volunteers worked closely with various venue, sport and site managers to oversee backstage and front-of-house activities for medal ceremonies across various sports. The group cherished the opportunity to work with volunteers from across the world to help honor and celebrate these athletes and their accomplishments.

I think Unified Sports Events are the coolest idea ever. At first glance it’s a fun game or sports competition but at its core it’s really all about inclusivity and advocacy. Just seeing the joy that the athletes feel together as they play their favorite sport was one of the more inspiring parts of the whole event and the volunteer experience.
image of Brightspot employee Ana Veblen
Ana Veblen, Senior Product Manager, Berlin World Games Volunteer

Fostering connections at the Brightspot Unified Challenge

The 2023 Brightspot Unified Challenge swung back into action this summer as championship-level golfers from the First Tee, Special Olympics and wounded veterans traveled to the nation’s capital for two days of fun and fierce competition.

After gathering for an opening reception on Sunday evening, the tournament teed off on Monday, July 31, at The Club of Creighton Farms with a team match-play event. Stakes were high on the final day of the competition as the Stars and Stripes went head to head at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm. After tying on the last hole and again in the tie-breaker round, Stripes clinched the victory in a closest-to-the-hole contest. Afterward, the group attended a closing party at Top Golf to celebrate a fantastic tournament.

Gallery: 2023 Brightspot Unified Challenge

Picture of golf participants at the 2023 Brightspot Unified Challenge Day
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2023 Brightspot Unified Challenge Day 1
Aidan Mcgee thinks through his next shot as Natasha Stasiuk, Adam Benza and Matt Dobbins look on at The Club at Creighton Farms
Picture of golf participants at the 2023 Brightspot Unified Challenge Day
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2023 Brightspot Unified Challenge Day 1
Lori Russell, Chris Hutson, Nick Kimmel, and Peter Chen get ready to start their round at The Club at Creighton Farms
Picture of golf participants at the 2023 Brightspot Unified Challenge Day
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2023 Brightspot Unified Challenge Day 1
Father and son duo Andrew and Jacob Bachelder go head to head on day one at The Club at Creighton Farms
Picture of golf participants at the 2023 Brightspot Unified Challenge Day
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2023 Brightspot Unified Challenge Day 1
Alex Francisco's putt looks promising as Jacob Bachelder, Andrew Bachelder and Kyle Koopman look on
Picture of golf participants at the 2023 Brightspot Unified Challenge Day
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2023 Brightspot Unified Challenge Day 1
Alex Glenn-Camden, Kasey Torres, Matthew Gang, David Gang, Chad Pfeifer, and Jerry Stackhouse pose on the course
Picture of golf participants at the 2023 Brightspot Unified Challenge Day
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2023 Brightspot Unified Challenge Day 2
Madison Boucher gets ready to tee off as Adam Jennings and Ben London think through their own strategy
Picture of golf participants at the 2023 Brightspot Unified Challenge Day
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2023 Brightspot Unified Challenge Day 2
Father and son David and Matthew Gang take a break from the head-to-head competition to take a friendly photo together at TPC Potomac
Picture of golf participants at the 2023 Brightspot Unified Challenge Day
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2023 Brightspot Unified Challenge Day 2
Stars and Stripes came together at TPC Potomac to celebrate a fun and exciting tournament
Picture of golf participants at the 2023 Brightspot Unified Challenge Day
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2023 Brightspot Unified Challenge Day 2
Jesse Williamson putts on the green as Lori Russell, Arnold David, Jr and Nick Halvorsen look on at TPC Potomac
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2023 Brightspot Unified Challenge Day 1
Aidan Mcgee thinks through his next shot as Natasha Stasiuk, Adam Benza and Matt Dobbins look on at The Club at Creighton Farms
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While it appears to be like any other golf tournament on the surface, the Brightspot Unified Challenge is true to the mission of Unified Sports which aims to bring together people from all different backgrounds and experiences, to create lasting friendships and develop greater understanding.

Learn more about the Brightspot Unified Challenge here.

Supporting Special Olympics locally

In addition to traveling to Berlin, Brightspot continued the tradition of supporting Special Olympics Virginia locally.

In February, Brightspot volunteers supported the Special Olympics Virginia Area 26 End-of-Season basketball tournament at Episcopal High School in Alexandria. The team checked in athletes, ran game clocks and served as scorekeepers.

Team Brightspot

In March, led by our co-worker and decorated Special Olympics athlete Rose Pleskow, the company celebrated Spread the Word: Inclusion Global Activation Day. Brightspot continued its long-standing tradition of organizing a variety of fun and engaging activities for employees to celebrate the company's commitment to inclusion; most importantly, we all signed a virtual banner, pledging to promote acceptance and inclusion while listening to a presentation from local Special Olympics Virginia Athlete and Global Ambassador Alex Hansen, who provided a moving personal testimony of the power of inclusion in today’s world.

SO Plane Pull

Things took flight in September when a team from Brightspot joined the masses on the tarmac at Washington's Dulles Airport to volunteer for the 2023 Dulles Plane Pull. While adults had the opportunity to display their strength during the Plane Pull main event, young people were able to get into the action with the Kids Truck Pull. Brightspot volunteers checked-in participants, managed the queues and cheered the children on while they pulled a junk truck down the runway.

To close the year, a group of volunteers took to the pitch in October to support Special Olympics Virginia’s Potomac Region UCS soccer tournament at Marshall High School. In addition to ball running and line judging for multiple games, Brightspot volunteers also had plenty of time to cheer on the athletes as they competed on a blustery fall day.

Powering digital expansion for Special Olympics

In 2023, Brightspot expanded our role as Special Olympics’ digital partner. With over 2,600 hours of value-in-kind work donated in 2023, Brightspot’s commitment of talent and expertise to the movement continues to make a significant difference as Special Olympics expands its digital footprint globally.

Special Olympics USA

In early 2023, Brightspot worked with Special Olympics to launch a redesigned experience for Special Olympics USA in advance of the 2023 World Games to share the announcement of the official USA delegation.

With Berlin trials happening in late November and a launch deadline of January 18, Brightspot had only a month to migrate hundreds of participant profiles, train the Special Olympics USA team and build the sports and state sections.

The new site makes it easier for Team USA to share news and updates, provides a better experience for users to search for athletes by state and sport and can scale and grow for future World and USA games.


2026 Special Olympics USA Games

In April, the Local Organizing Committee behind the 2026 Special Olympics USA Games contacted Brightspot about launching a site to coincide with their upcoming logo reveal. Using Brightspot’s powerful and versatile theme and design system, we launched a new site in less than three weeks. Over the next three years, we will partner closely with the 2026 USA Games to build a powerful online experience to celebrate the athletes competing in Minnesota in 2026.


Taking the Brightspot mission on the road 

As Brightspot has grown, our workforce continues to expand with hubs in Colorado, New York City, Austin and Chicago. Brightspot’s mission efforts went on the road this year with new events happening in our remote locations to include more employees in our mission activities and expand our reach into these new communities.

Remote events kicked off in January where, for the first time since 2019, Brightspot sent a group of Colorado-based skiers and snowboarders to Aspen for the Special Olympics X-Games Unified Race. For two days, Team Brightspot practiced with the athletes on the slopes as they prepared for their Unified competition, cheered them on during their race and hung out with them at the X Games.

Gallery: 2023 remote mission events

Volunteering in New York City
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Volunteering in New York City
Andres Gallo and Deion Shepherd pack hygiene kits for clients at the HopeLine in the Bronx
Volunteering in New York City
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Volunteering in New York City
Brightspot employees from New York and New Jersey pose outside The HopeLine diaper bank located in the Bronx
Volunteering in New York City
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Volunteering in New York City
Austin Fairchild, Samantha Miller, Alea Connolly and Becky Allen packed hundreds of diapers during their time at The HopeLine
Volunteering in Austin
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Volunteering in Austin
Adrianna Nowell poses with her new friend at Restoration Ranch
Volunteering in Austin
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Volunteering in Austin
Brightspot team members in Austin spend a day lending a helping hand at Restoration Ranch
Volunteering in Austin
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Volunteering in Austin
Lee Teague and Larry Ramsdell pose in front of the newly constructed "run-in" for the horses at Restoration Ranch
Volunteering in Chicago
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Volunteering in Chicago
Raleigh McClayton, Liz Bell, and Cassie Moran organize items for St. Helen's parish carnival
Volunteering in Chicago
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Volunteering in Chicago
Liz Bell shows her support for St. Helen's school while helping the school prepare for their parish carnival
Volunteering in Chicago
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Volunteering in Chicago
Brightspot team members from the Windy City pose on the steps of St. Helen's School after spending the morning helping with projects around the school
Volunteering in Chicago
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Volunteering in Chicago
Brenda Hali helps organize classroom supplies at St. Helen's
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Volunteering in New York City
Andres Gallo and Deion Shepherd pack hygiene kits for clients at the HopeLine in the Bronx
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In New York City, a group of New York- and New Jersey-based Brightspot employees volunteered at The HopeLine, a diaper bank that serves vulnerable families in the Bronx. During the day, the group packed over 17,000 diapers for HopeLine’s clients, making a massive impact on a small organization.

The Austin Brightspot squad got into the action in September at Restoration Ranch in Bastrop, Texas. Restoration Ranch is a safe haven for equine learning and development that nurtures the well-being of veteran families through “the gift of the horse.” On a hot day, the Brightspot volunteers helped with seasonal chores, painted and helped construct a much-needed wooden “run-in” for the horses.

The tour ended in Chicago, where our crew spent the day at St. Helen’s school through a local organization called the Big Shoulders Fund. Volunteers helped prep and organize inventory for the school’s annual carnival, moved desks and rugs, built classroom shelving and organized books and classroom supplies.

Scents & ScentsAbility

In recent years, Brightspot has weaved its mission into its end-of-year customer appreciation gift and is using this opportunity to make a difference. In 2023, Brightspot partnered with ScentsAbility, an organization founded in 2009 by a single mother struggling to find meaningful employment opportunities for her daughter with intellectual disabilities. In the 14 years since its founding, ScentsAbility has grown to employ 18 full-time artisans who create beautiful, handmade scented candles.


In addition to selecting, purchasing, co-branding and sending the candles to our customers, Brightspot employees traveled to Florida to join ScentsAbility’s artisans for a one-day candle-making workshop at their headquarters in Coral Springs. The group learned a great deal about making candles, got to see how ScentsAbility has adapted the process to work for those of all abilities and formed meaningful connections with the artisans on site, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Honoring our nation’s heroes

Since Brightspot’s founding 16 years ago, we’ve been committed to supporting the brave men and women who have served our nation with unwavering commitment. We sincerely appreciate the sacrifices made by veterans, and we are resolute in our efforts to identify and support organizations that offer a helping hand and a heartfelt thank you to those who have served and sacrificed.

On Monday, January 9, 14 volunteers traveled to Boulder Crest's Bluemont campus to reset the property for the New Year. This included taking down and storing holiday decorations put up in November, cleaning the on-campus cabins and helping unload tile for an upcoming bathroom renovation project.

Boulder Crest Team

At Boulder Crest’s recommendation, Brightspot connected with a new organization this year called Holistic Horsemanship Services (HHS). Holistic Horsemanship Services was founded by Adrienne Freeland in 2018 and specializes in neurologically involved clientele, grief support and education, veteran suicide awareness and prevention and active military transition support. On our day at the HHS farm, the group helped with daily and seasonal chores across the farm, including power washing their mobile unit, painting a fence, cleaning out the barn and paddocks and grooming horses. In addition to the chores, the group watched and participated in an Equine Assisted Learning demonstration.

Empowering future leaders to reach new heights

In 2023, Brightspot remained committed to giving back to disadvantaged youth through new and continuing initiatives at Aldrin Elementary School, donating weeks of summer camp to local children and supporting Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program for the seventh year in a row.

Helping Aldrin’s Eagles take flight

Read Across America

Brightspot helped promote reading during Literacy Week at Aldrin Elementary School to kickoff the year. Brightspot volunteers attended family reading night to distribute hundreds of books to students across all grades. The following day, Brightspot employees went into first-grade classrooms to read some of their favorite books to students.

Aldrin Beautification 2023

Aldrin School Beautification Project

In conjunction with Staff Appreciation Week, a dedicated group of Brightspot employees spent the day at the school for Aldrin Elementary’s Beautification Day at the end of April. The initiative started with the standard weeding, planting and mulching across the Aldrin property. This year, however, the group undertook a new project: removing, building and replacing old garden beds in the school's garden with brand-new elevated flower beds, offering a fresh start for the school's gardening endeavors. Throughout the process, Brightspot worked closely with Aldrin's teacher and Green Club leader, Kevin Curtis, to ensure we selected plants that would thrive in the environmental conditions of their location.

An exciting aspect of this year's project was the active involvement of the students. The kids joined the gardening activities, adding a fun and collaborative element to the day. FCPS Superintendent, Michelle Reid, paid a visit during the day, further emphasizing the significance and impact of Brightspot’s partnership with Aldrin.

Revamping the Aldrin mentorship program

After a successful pilot program in fall 2022, Brightpot continued to expand its mentorship program in 2023. Building upon the fifth-grade mentorship program in the 2022-2023 school year, Brightspot added the second-grade classroom to the mix for the 2023-2024 school year. Brightspot currently has a group of 14 mentors rotating in groups of two to spend an hour weekly in each classroom to provide additional help with math.

I want to thank you so much for organizing the Brightspot volunteers. I just love having extra help. My students look forward to having them every Thursday. It really makes a huge difference in the classroom, and I have been able to do so much more when the volunteers are here. I really appreciate the partnership and look forward to the rest of the year.
Katherine Hughes, Second Grade Teacher, Buzz Aldrin Elementary School

Camp Highroad

In October, to help get to know the fifth-grade class at the start of the new school year, Brightspot mentors were invited to join them on a field trip yesterday to Camp Highroad in Middleburg, Virginia. The students were broken up into groups and tasked with working together through numerous team-building challenges, including conquering their fears on a 400-foot-long zipline. It was a tremendous opportunity to interact with and support the students and faculty while spending a beautiful fall day outdoors.

Back-to-school drive

In August, Brightspot hosted another back-to-school drive to benefit Aldrin’s students in need. The generosity of Brightspot was on full display, with over 50 employees filling 64 backpacks with school supplies to set students up for success in the coming year.

Camp Letts

Summer 2023 meant another fun summer at YMCA’s Camp Letts, as Brightspot once again sponsored 16 weeks of overnight camp for inner-city youth. This year, Brightspot employees again helped with the scholarship application review process and selected 16 scholarship recipients from various YMCA branches in the area.

Your kind donations have had a profound impact on [my daughter’s] life, and our family will never forget it. Your generosity has given her a new perspective on what is possible beyond the violence that surrounds us every day. The vivid photos of her engagement and her unwavering determination to make the most of this opportunity brought tears to my eyes. We are forever grateful for your support and kindness.
Mother of a Camp Letts’ Scholarship Recipient

Supporting our neighbors in need

Brightspot employees also continued the mission of feeding and serving our neighbors in need in 2023.

Fighting food insecurity in our backyard

We returned to the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) in the Shirlington neighborhood to volunteer at their warehouse, bagging apples and carrots in March and helping to prepare for Thanksgiving by bagging sweet potatoes and beans for clients in November.

We also continued our in-office tradition of packing lunches to feed those experiencing homelessness. Twice during the year, employees gathered at the end of the work day to pack and donate 240 lunches with 480 sandwiches to feed our neighbors in need at Cornerstones Embry Rucker Shelter.

Salvation Army's Angel Tree program

Brightspot at the Salvation Army Warehouse

To close out this year of giving, Brightspot employees came together for one of the company's favorite traditions, Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, which provides holiday gifts to deserving children in need. In the end, 98 employees adopted 132 Angels, providing them with clothes and toys to help them celebrate the holiday season. In addition to sponsoring this group of Angels, a team of 23 volunteers traveled to the Salvation Army warehouse on December 18 to help distribute the gifts to thousands of local families.

Onward and upward

Looking ahead to 2024, we are poised to build upon the past year's successes. Our mission plan for the year ahead is to continue to grow employee participation, strengthen and deepen our local partnerships and connect with new organizations nationwide as we plan more remote events in Colorado, Austin, Chicago and New York City. We look forward to an exciting year ahead!

Brightspot employee Alexa Fox
About the Author
Alexa Fox
A graduate of the Pennsylvania State University, Alexa serves as Senior Manager of Mission for Brightspot.

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