Over the last six weeks, we’ve been sharing the stories of the six achievers we will be honoring at our Expect Success: Celebrating Achievers gala on April 25. Our achievers are people with disabilities who have excelled in the arts, classroom, business world, and beyond. You can follow along with these stories right here.
“Your future rests in your courage.” That’s the motto that 22-year-old Riley Easley lives by. Riley has both autism and anxiety, but neither of those were enough to prevent him from making his dream a reality: Riley is the founder of the small business Riley Kind. Inspired by his own passionate commitment to promoting kindness, the Riley Kind business specializes in creating personalized greeting cards with the ultimate goal of spreading kindness in the world.
During his high school years, Riley was actively engaged in his community and had many neurotypical friends. As part of his socializing, he quickly learned how to find who he considered to be the “kind kids,” rather than the ones who were necessarily the most popular. He took part in a freshman/senior mentorship program, sharing his story with students and openly discussing his disability.
Riley never lets his disability define him, but he also knows his own limits. When he learned that he wouldn’t be able to drive, he was disappointed, but ultimately accepted it and moved on to what came next. One absolutely crucial goal for him that he refused to compromise on, however, was his desire to attend college just as all of his high school peers intended to.
And through his boundless self-determination, Riley was able to do just that. He attended Bridgewater State University’s ICEI program for two years – even though it was 70 miles away from his home in Sterling, and his mother had to drive him there and back. However, after his two years of success at BSU, he was informed that he wouldn’t be allowed to return as he was about to turn 22 in the forthcoming semester.
But not even that blow was enough to deter him from his pursuit of education. Thanks to his close connection with BSU President Frederick W. Clark Jr., Riley was recommended in high regard to President Barry M. Maloney of Worcester State University. As a result of Riley’s own undeniable perseverance, his skills, and his kind spirit and personality, Riley was accepted into WSU, which he now attends. Although transferring was difficult, Riley is now flourishing in his new environment.
Another way in which Riley displays his warmth and enthusiasm is in his creative pursuits. In addition to writing a 160 page script, which he fully intends to see made into a series of films, he has always been drawn toward creating and sending his own greeting cards. After his mother, Paula, attended The Arc’s Transition Conference in 2014, she learned about a great way in which Riley could express his creativity: by creating a small business focused on sharing his kindness through cards.
And thus, Riley Kind was born. Offering various kinds of greeting cards and “kindness” cards, Riley Kind represents the culmination of Riley’s lifelong belief: promoting kindness in the world, however and wherever possible.
Written by Katerina Daley, Development and Digital Media Associate
The Arc of Massachusetts 2018 gala, Expect Success: Celebrating Achievers, will be held on April 25. To learn more, purchase tickets, or become a sponsor, please visit the official gala webpage.