“The BEST Weekend With The BEST People!”

Riley’s Way’s first-ever Call For Kindness Retreat was “The BEST weekend with the BEST people!” shared one attendee. The Retreat, held February 10-12 in Washington, D.C., convened the 2022 cohort of C4K Fellows and some alums for a weekend of learning, fun, and friendships — all in the spirit of growing as an effective and kind leader.

That Friday afternoon, some Fellows volunteered at Bread For The City, which supports low-income residents of Washington, D.C., to develop their power to determine the future of their communities. The evening began with a warm welcome by Riley’s Way Co-Founder and Board Chair Ian Sandler, who shared how his daughter Riley loved finding different people in her orbit and connecting them and his vision to build “an army of kind leaders in every town and in every city.” He urged the audience: “if you believe in this, pay it forward. Be kind to somebody, treat them well, and the world changes.”

Most agreed that Ian and his wife Mackenzie’s daughter, Ruby, 7, stole the show: “I never got to meet Riley, but she has made a big impact on my heart.”

Saturday began with a great discussion led by keynote speaker, socio-cultural architect, advocate, writer, and artist Eva Maria Lewis, who spoke passionately on the power and courage of kindness (over niceness!) as a commitment and in asking your community what they need instead of assuming those needs. “Niceness is performance; kindness is intention.”

Following Eva Maria’s talk was a workshop from the Story District, which delivered an inspiring presentation on the art of storytelling and the value of highlighting the “champion,” “challenge,” and “change” when sharing your story to get your audience to listen, care, remember, feel, think, or take action. Participants learned that storytelling should be an immersive experience where your audience isn’t just listening; they should live your story with you.

Riley’s Way community members led workshops for C4K Fellows on team dynamics, team management, using social media to support your cause, and taking care of your mental health and practicing self-care. Participants also explored D.C., visiting the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the National Gallery of Art, — culminating with a Monuments by the Moonlight trolley tour!

Sunday started with an interactive fundraising panel, where Fellows learned fundraising tips and tricks from a diverse group of experts in the field and even got the chance to ask questions and chat one-on-one. Some of the messages shared included, “no doesn’t necessarily mean never,” and “take the time to find out what people are about, understand what matters to individuals, and how you can help them.” The weekend wrapped up with Fellows who had traveled across the country to attend the Retreat, embracing one another, exchanging contact information, and reflecting on what they learned and valued most from their experiences. Everyone left with a better understanding of what it means to be a kind leader and connect with a lifelong community of fellow changemakers.

Judging from the evaluations and participant smiles, the Retreat was a huge success!