Empowered by Kindness: Insights from Riley’s Way Foundation’s Board Retreat

By Faith Ajanaku, Kindness Correspondent & Call For Kindness Program Intern

Hey everyone!

My name is Faith Ajanaku, and I am the Call For Kindness Program Intern at Riley’s Way Foundation, and I can’t wait to share my incredible experience at the recent Board Retreat. It was a day filled with inspiration, heartwarming stories, and a whole lot of kindness.

The day started early with a bumpy yet amusing bus ride. As we set off on our journey, I saw the Riley’s Way team and participants snacking and chatting, eagerly anticipating the day ahead. Some were even catching up on much-needed sleep after an early morning start. It was fantastic to see how close-knit the group was, with laughter filling the air.

Upon arrival at the Retreat venue, the energy was palpable. We kicked things off with an icebreaker that encouraged everyone to share personal stories of kindness they had received during their high school days and their dream travel destinations. It was heartwarming to see how kindness had left a lasting impact on each person’s life. For example, Thais Salas, Program Coordinator at Riley’s Way, mentioned how Stephanie Kingston, Riley’s Way’s Engagement and Events Director, was the (former) teacher who showed her kindness during high school.

Next, we were treated to powerful speeches by Riley’s Way Alumni, Danny, Thais, Lexi, Agha, and myself! We all spoke passionately about how Riley’s Way has transformed our lives and how we’ve taken the values of kindness and compassion with us on our journeys. One phrase resonated with everyone: “You never graduate from Riley’s Way.” It truly highlighted the enduring impact of this incredible foundation.

A highlight of the day was the “Elevator Pitch” activity, where everyone had two minutes to pitch Riley’s Way and its programs to their partner. It was both a fun and informative exercise that showcased the dedication of each participant to the cause. Hearing the diverse ideas and perspectives was enlightening.

Lunch was a delightful affair, with assigned seating and thought-provoking questions for small group discussions. The atmosphere was buzzing with excitement and camaraderie as we got to know one another better. Personally, I found out that a Riley’s Way board member is close friends with the parents of two friends from college!

After lunch, Christine took the lead in presenting the Strategic plan overview. We learned about Riley’s Way’s achievements and exciting future plans, such as expanding programs, increasing the budget, and more staff hires. It was evident that the team’s dedication has led to remarkable success.

The afternoon continued with small group discussions, where we openly shared our thoughts on challenges and possible solutions. Brainstorming ideas to help bring Riley’s Way to different communities was invigorating, and the passion of every participant was evident.

The day wasn’t all business, though. We also enjoyed relaxing activities such as yoga with Ian Sandler, co-founder of Riley’s Way, going down the slide at the pool, bowling, pickleball, and enjoying soft serve ice cream. It was a wonderful way to unwind and bond with fellow Retreat participants.

As the sun began to set, we gathered once more for refreshments and hor d’oeuvres at the Ridge House. The evening provided an excellent opportunity to network with individuals outside the foundation, which was an invaluable experience for all of us. A highlight from this segment of the day was playing “Taco, Cat, Goat, Cheese, Pizza,” a card game that filled the room with laughter and minor hand injuries from smacking the table too hard.

Reflecting on the day, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly grateful to be part of the Riley’s Way family. The dedication and enthusiasm of everyone present at the Board Retreat reinforced the positive impact this foundation has had on young minds. It reminded me that kindness can truly change lives and communities.

Thank you, Riley’s Way Foundation, for an unforgettable experience. The Board Retreat has left an indelible mark on my heart, and I’m more motivated than ever to contribute to the kindness movement.