A Bright Partnership with the TODAY Show

The following guest post comes from Mark Mendel, president of the Bright Horizons Foundation for Children.

Inspiring. That's the single word I'd use to describe the experience of being on live TV while standing alongside TODAY's Willie Geist. A couple of weeks ago he announced that he'd chosen the Bright Horizons Foundation for Children as his partner for his Shine a Light project. The project is part of TODAY's year-long program to support worthy causes around the country. Together, we're going to create a Bright Space for the Bushwick Family Residence homeless shelter in Brooklyn. It was an exciting moment and certainly, for me, a unique one (unless you've got "Academy Award Winner" or "Olympic Champion" before your name, it isn't something you get do every day). And it was the latest demonstration of the kind of spirit and dedication I'm lucky enough to get to see acted out by volunteers and people around me every day.

Helping the Communities in Which We Live and Work

At the Bright Horizons Foundation for Children, our focus is on children and families. Our signature Bright Space program builds play areas at homeless shelters and other organizations around the country for parents and children who need a bright light in some otherwise difficult days.

I'm so proud that the TODAY show partnership will mark our 316th Bright Space we've opened in the US. And we're still going strong. I often step back and marvel at the energy that people often perfect strangers commit to these projects, pulling together colleagues, rolling up their sleeves, and getting to work. We've seen Bright Horizons employees, community members, and Bright Horizons clients raise money, lend elbow grease, and get dirty as they lift, paint, and construct these wonderful spaces into existence.

Pitching In for a Great Cause

These are not small projects. But nobody ever complains: not when they give up their spare time, not when they're showing up during evenings or on weekends after a full week of work. Most everybody who partakes calls it positively energizing. And it never fails that when the project's complete ; when children walk in for the first time to find books, and toys, and comfy chairs, and a happy place where they can connect with their parents and siblings and maybe forget their difficult circumstances for a little while -- the volunteers feel every bit as grateful to be there as the people who will use it. Nationally, the bureau of labor statistics says that about 1/3 of today's workforce participates in community service -- that's a statistic I'm proud to be a part of.

A Word of Gratitude

I'm also proud to be associated with people who dedicate themselves to making lives brighter, and not just during the holiday season, but throughout the year. And I'm honored to have been chosen as Willie Geist's partner in such a worthy cause. After Mr. Geist chose us as his TODAY Shine A Light partner, he had the opportunity to meet a shelter resident Dominique ; a young girl who has experienced more challenges in her 14 years than many of us will experience in a lifetime (watch the inspiring story here).  When the last detail is sewn up, the big benefit of our project will unquestionably be what it will do for Dominique and the other 150+ children at the shelter. A few weeks from now, when the cameras roll again as those doors open, we'll all feel the impact as this deserving group of children get a vital Bright Space for their families that they really need. And it couldn't happen without a lot of hands. Inspiring indeed.

So in this season of giving, to all those who give of themselves during the holidays and the rest of the year, there's another, single heartfelt word that comes to mind: Thanks.