In addition to the General Category (25 awards), there will be ten awards focused on Education Equity, three awards in special category, A Kinder World for Animals Award, and one in each of the other special categories: Interfaith Connections and Dance and the Arts.

“Education equity is not only about breaking down systemic barriers and accommodating various circumstances,” explained C4K alumni, Everest Maya-Tudor, “it’s also about creating an environment where learning is seen as a fundamental right rather than a privilege.” (more info below)

The Yuriko Kikuchi Arigato Award (“Arigato” means “thank you” in Japanese), supports projects in dance and the performing arts in honor of Yuriko, the pioneering dancer, choreographer, and keeper of Martha Graham’s flame. This year, we are introducing two new awards, The Interfaith Connections Award and the A Kinder World for Animals Award. The purpose of the Interfaith Connections Award is to foster education, connection making, and acts of kindness across different religious or cultural communities. The A Kinder World for Animals Award is for projects that address the well-being of animals and the important role that they play in human lives. (more info below)

Education Equity
Every year, the Riley’s Way youth community selects a topic for the Call For Kindness Special Category, focusing on an issue that requires heightened attention. Previous special categories have addressed concerns such as food insecurity, mental health, and environmental justice. The Special Category for the 2024 Call For Kindness is Education Equity, reflecting the clear commitment of the Riley’s Way youth community to prioritize supporting fair and inclusive access to high-quality education, irrespective of one’s background.

Projects falling under this category have the flexibility to address a wide range of issues, from addressing societal challenges related to racial and economic disparities in college access and STEM programs to tackling local issues concerning inclusive and affirming learning content, such as books.

Recognizing the varying educational experiences of students across the United States, Riley’s Way aims to endorse projects within this special category that actively promote kindness, empathy, and the creation of inclusive communities. The overarching goal is to contribute to more equitable access to high-quality education, transcending barriers related to socioeconomic status, racial or gender identity, or other social factors.

Abigail Fixel, 2024 Call For Kindness fellow, articulates the essence of educational equity, stating, “Educational equity is where every student receives the resources necessary to learn to their highest potential regardless of their geographic location, socioeconomic status, sex, gender, religion, age, learning difference, or any other factor that may make them different from one or all of their peers.”

A Kinder World for Animals Award
The A Kinder World for Animals Award will support projects that embody Riley’s Way’s values while addressing (1) the well-being of the animals that share human homes, communities and/or the planet; or (2) the role and importance that animals play in human lives and well-being. Eligible projects may focus on companion animals, domestic farm animals, captive or free-roaming wildlife, and/or support for pet owners in crisis.

This category was sponsored by A Kinder World Foundation.

Interfaith Connections Award
Introduced in 2024, the Interfaith Connections Award supports projects dedicated to fostering education, facilitating connections, and promoting acts of kindness across diverse religious or cultural communities. The funded projects may range from national youth-led initiatives that encourage mutual respect for religious identities to local, hands-on conversations that bring individuals from different faiths or cultures together.

Guided by the principles of connection and shared humanity, interfaith activities contribute to the development of more inclusive and empathic individuals, nurturing stronger interpersonal relationships and fostering a sense of unity among different communities. Ian Sandler, co-founder of Riley’s Way and Board Chair, emphasizes the significance of the award by stating, “This award allows students to utilize kind leadership and connection-making to create bridges among different faiths, aiming for a better understanding and knowledge of one another in hopes of repairing a broken world — in the essence of tikkun olam.”

“We live in an age characterized both by an unprecedented exchange of ideas and a universal fear of the unknown. We can accomplish so much by building bridges of discourse, understanding, common ground, and mutual respect. That is what Riley’s Way is all about,” Joel Sandler explains to provide context on the timeliness of this award.

The Interfaith Connections award is in honor of Julian Sandler, the late-grandfather of Riley Hannah Sandler. This Award is very much in the spirit of Julian’s life and work as a bridge builder and connector. “My dad grew up with a strong religious background and was a connector who, like Riley, loved to bring people together from different backgrounds,” explained Ian. “He was an amazing human being and taught us to be philanthropic from an early age. Believing in learning from everyone, he was a true friend, always there in times of need.” Julian Sandler was active in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and came to this country to get a Ph.D. in nuclear physics with little in his pocket. He built a remarkable life in the United States during his short 64 years and was a true kind leader.

Yuriko Kikuchi Arigato Award
Riley’s Way supports one award each year in a special dance and performing arts category, the Yuriko Kikuchi Arigato Award (“Arigato” means “thank you” in Japanese), in honor of Yuriko, the pioneering dancer, choreographer, and keeper of Martha Graham’s flame. Yuriko was the grandmother of Riley’s Way’s Director of Operations, Laura (Kikuchi) Dunn, who expressed her immense appreciation for the opportunity to celebrate her grandmother’s legacy and love and passion for dancing with this new recognition, aptly named the Yuriko Kikuchi Arigato Award (“Arigato” means “thank you” in Japanese).

Born in San Jose, California in 1920, Yuriko lived through a world war, two pandemics, and worked her way up from a seamstress to become one of Martha Graham’s most renowned dancers and choreographers. She remained with the Graham Company for more than 50 years and founded a student company, the Martha Graham Ensemble, in 1983. A trailblazer and multitasker, Yuriko accomplished countless feats, including being honored by the Martha Hill Dance Fund with a Lifetime Achievement Award, choreographing and designing costumes for numerous routines, and both performing in and directing The King and I in London, Japan, and on Broadway in New York City. Yuriko passed away in March of 2022 at the age of 102.

The Yuriko Kikuchi Arigato Award supports one Call For Kindness award in a special dance and performing arts category. The project must be youth-led and inspired by kindness, drive change in your community, and build connections, and be centered around dance or the performing arts. Past awards have included Supporting Elders and Connecting Generations through Ballet from Metairie, LA and Wired 4 Dance from Irvine, CA.