On the flight to Newark, I was thinking about past retreats I have attended. I couldn’t help but cringe at the thought of the cheesy ice breakers I had done and the sort of generic speeches I had heard. I was unconsciously preparing myself for one of “those weekends” and setting expectations without realizing how different and life-changing it was actually going to be. Having never been to a place like Timber Lake Camp, the gorgeous scenery that greeted me was one of the most pleasant surprises I have encountered. The majestic mountains, the trees with changing leaves, and most importantly, the intelligent women that surrounded me created the most magical environment I have been in. I started to quickly realize how impactful the weekend was going to be when we started some ice breaker activities with our small groups. From hearing incredible talks to getting to talk to the kind and well-spoken girls in my small group, my weekend was off to an incredible start. Putting my assumptions about what the weekend would entail aside, I found myself stepping out of my comfort zone and fully diving in. Having done this, I learned a lot, not just about leadership but about myself. I did things I normally wouldn’t expect myself to do. I felt confident in voicing my opinions because of the kind environment that was created and fostered. Even at a steps class, knowing no one there, I felt welcome. That was the essence of the weekend. The kindness I felt was so genuine and I wish everyone could experience it. As cheesy as this sounds, the Riley’s Way Retreat was life-changing. I left feeling empowered, inspired, and hopeful. Riley Sandler brought together women from all over the country, and it is an honor to say that I was touched by her legacy.

– Sofia Castillo