In 2019, Brightspot's calendar of volunteer activities, as well as scope of giving and enthusiasm for the company's overall mission, grew immensely.
Brightspot was founded with giving back to its community core to its mission. Through ongoing, concrete actions, our mission aims at getting our employees off the sidelines to join hand-in-hand in bringing joy to the lives of others, while gaining a greater understanding of our community. Through 28 projects over 12 months, Brightspot touched the lives of over 1800 people and provided employees with over 500 opportunities to give back.
Promoting Inclusion, Opportunity, and Health Across the Globe
The 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games
In March, Abu Dhabi hosted the world’s largest sporting and humanitarian event in 2019—the Special Olympics World Games. This event brought together over 7,000 athletes from 190 countries competing in 25 sports. For the fourth consecutive World Games, Brightspot sent a group of 12 employees to volunteer on site. The Brightspot team was responsible for organizing and managing the Unified Sports Experiences (USE), a series of 16 friendly 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 awards ceremonies to ensure that the 1200+ participants had a memorable and life-changing experience.
Brightspot also played a valuable role in bringing the World Games to life online for millions of fans around the world. The launch of AbuDhabi2019.org on the Brightspot CMS marked the first integration with Special Olympics games management tool, SO Connect, which allowed Special Olympics to provide real-time results. The site provided users with a complete schedule and results by sport, as well as a searchable athlete directory, where users could could find individual profiles of the 7,000 participating athletes or track the progress of one of 190+ participating delegations.
Growing the Special Olympics Online Network
For more than a decade, Brightspot has helped Special Olympics build its growing online presence. In addition to the World Games website, in 2019 Brightspot provided valuable in-kind support to two Special Olympics initiatives that aim to change perspectives and expand health opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.
The first project, launched in February 2019, was a re-branding of Special Olympics' Spread the Word initiative. After 10 years of eliminating the derogatory use of the r-word, Special Olympics turned its focus to spreading the idea of inclusion through grassroots action. As the campaign has grown over the past 10 years, Brightspot has always been eager to lend a hand, helping to develop an online home for the movement, with digital pledging and resources for those looking to get involved. The latest version of the site expands the organization's mission to include a social action plan for inclusion.
In the fall, Special Olympics also relaunched the Center for Inclusive Health with a new look and feel, updated taxonomy and easy-to-use publishing tools to help better, and more easily engage its audience. The Center for Inclusive Health’s goal is to advance structural change within the health community and positively impact how people with intellectual disabilities are treated.
Inclusion Celebration Brightspot HQ
At Brightspot, we are a proud member of the #inclusionrevolution. In 2019, we continued to spread this message of inclusion by once again celebrating Spread the Word Day in March at HQ. On that day, employees donned Spread the Word t-shirts and signed a banner, pledging to continue to promote acceptance and inclusion of all people in a variety of ways.
Following the success of our Unified Top Golf event in 2018, we also hosted our first Unified Bowling night with athletes from Special Olympics Virginia. It was a great night full of laughter, fun and friendly competition. We look forward to providing employees with more opportunities to play unified in 2020.
Empowering the Next Generation of Innovators
At Brightspot, we believe that all children have potential and should be given the opportunity to thrive. For that reason, we annually participate in Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work day, partner with a local school, Buzz Aldrin Elementary, and support a variety of organizations like the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, The First Tee, and Salvation Army who provide support to children and families throughout the year.
Helping The Aldrin Eagles Soar
In 2019, Brightspot began a new partnership with Buzz Aldrin Elementary, a school located just down the road from our Reston headquarters. In the first six months of the partnership, Brightspot employees have made a difference in the lives of the entire student body through a variety of projects.
In July, Brightspot employees adopted 55 students from disadvantaged backgrounds prior to the start of the school year, filling backpacks with school supplies for the year ahead. Then, on a hot August day, a group of 10 Brightspot volunteers helped with two outdoor beautification projects. One team revamped the school’s garden and the others stripped, sanded and sealed over 30 tree stumps to create an outdoor learning space for teachers and students to use year-round.
The partnership with Aldrin Elementary will continue in 2020 with the start of a mentoring partnership for a group of 5th and 6th students. Mentors will be meeting with students regularly to provide them with support and guidance as they prepare for the transition to middle school.
Building Brighter Futures with the YMCA
Making a positive impact on our local youth and nurturing the next generation of innovators continues to be a top priority at Brightspot. For the last seven years, we have established a scholarship program with the YMCA’s Camp Letts, making it possible for children from low-income families to experience the fun and magic of sleepaway camp. To date, Brightspot has donated over 270 weeks of camp for youth from disadvantaged backgrounds.
In 2019, Brightspot also led our first bike-building workshop at YMCA’s annual Thingamajig Invention Convention. Thingamajig, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in summer 2019, strives to inspire local youth to explore careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). With the help of volunteers from The Bike Lane, this interactive activity provided Thingamajig participants the opportunity to get their hands dirty, learn about the mechanics of bike building and put together both large and small bikes. Over the course of the day, 21 bikes were assembled and then taken home by deserving campers.
Nurturing the Workforce of Tomorrow
For the sixth year in a row, Brightspot took part in National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day in April. Inspired by the theme, "Workforce Development for All", the children created their own recipe for success, interviewed employees about their experience at Brightspot and went on a scavenger hunt throughout the office. After an ice cream social, they also participated in our mission, by packing lunches for area homeless shelters.
Making Holiday Magic
To close 2019, the Brightspot community came together to support Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, which provides holiday gifts to deserving children in need. In the end, 87 employees adopted 125 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 16 volunteers traveled to the Salvation Army warehouse on December 19 to help distribute the gifts to families. Over the four-hour shift, our team of volunteers played an important role in serving over 600 families.
Empowering Veterans Through Golf
For the seventh year, we hosted the annual Unified Challenge golf tournament in June to bridge the gap and cultivate meaningful relationships for individuals from diverse backgrounds. In 2019, we welcomed 18 youth from The First Tee to compete as teammates alongside 12 Special Olympics golfers and 12 wounded veterans, who inspired the field with their courage and bravery.
Although the group came together to compete in a two-day Ryder Cup style team golf tournament that pitted Stars versus Stripes, the week-long experience was about far more than the drives and putts on the golf course. While the participants from The First Tee toured the United States Capitol and Smithsonian Museums, the veterans and Special Olympics athletes spent an afternoon building relationships and forming connections by sharing stories about the challenges they had overcome in their lives. For both, the experience was a powerful opportunity to relate to each other in ways they had never imagined. Both groups left the experience moved by the similarities in the courage to thrive in the face of adversity and left with a more compassionate understanding of their differences.
Later that afternoon, the veterans met with The First Tee for a somber tour of Arlington National Cemetery. The trip provided many of the veterans the opportunity to visit the grave sites of those with whom they served and who lost their lives during tours in Iraq or Afghanistan. Walking the grounds together, the teenagers from The First Tee were moved by the opportunity to pay their respects to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and doing so alongside veterans provided a powerful perspective, giving the tour even greater weight.
Throughout the week, the veterans who came from around the country shared their stories, speaking openly about their injuries, and in doing so uplifted Special Olympics athletes to feel more confident about their own differences, inspired The First Tee golfers with their spirited joy for life, and empowered themselves to see the positive impact they have on so many.
Continuing the Mission in 2020
In 2019, our calendar of events and the enthusiasm for our overall mission grew immensely. In 2020, we look forward to sustain this momentum by repeating successful events such as the 8th annual Unified Challenge in June and the Salvation Army's Angel Tree collection and distribution at the end of the year. We also look forward to strengthening and growing partnerships over the course of the year, such as those with Aldrin Elementary and and The First Tee, as we continue to expand our efforts to positively impact the lives of people in our local community and beyond.