Mama Shu Goes to the Mountains


The Avalon Village team had the privilege this weekend to attend the Sullivan Foundation Ignite! Retreat at Kanuga Retreat Center in the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains near Hendersonville, North Carolina. In the company of nearly 100 students, faculty, and facilitators, we engaged in a weekend of conversation and learning about social entrepreneurialism and social change with the next generation of change-leaders!

The student participants were culled from dozens of different colleges across the unnamedSoutheast, many selected through a competitive process. The group was diverse – racially, ethnically, and gender-wise. Many students came describing their plans for amazing projects already in motion: soup kitchens, new businesses, educational programs and more. Seeing these driven, ambitious young people sparking game-changing ideas was truly inspiring.

The retreat center lent itself to deep conversation and dialogue: rocking chairs sat across the long porch overlooking a placid lake. Breakout groups would sometimes make their way into forest clearings where benches sat in circles for people to commune and be one with nature as they discussed a variety of topics. The food was wholesome and delicious – and complemented the good company!

Mama Shu gave a presentation on Saturday night about the Avalon Village – a close-up, inside look at the challenges and successes of starting a thriving non-profit out of the pain of losing a child. She inspired the participants – young and old – with her stories and lessons learned. They sat on the edge of their seats and when she finished gave her the first standing ovation in the history of the retreat! Our team learned much too, gaining vital feedback and suggestions from the participants.

A hearty thank-you to all of the facilitators and staff of the Sullivan Ignite Retreat for honoring us with the opportunity to dialogue with you. We hope this is just the beginning of a very fruitful partnership to last many years!
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