By Mitchell Slepian

Edited by Stephanie Slepian Vivolo

When one spends a weekend in the Hamptons, the first thing that comes to mind is traffic. Yeah, the traffic on LIE was horrendous. However, the traffic in the house at Elem’s retreat was the exact opposite. We were riding in rapidly moving traffic, racing to the finish line to change the lives of children in need.

So, before we spread the dirt on what we did, we first need to thank Lenore Ruben, president, Elem/America Board for letting us use her spectacular home. The views of the lake from the deck were breathtaking.

As an Elem newbie, joining after the Jazz and Wine Fest, this weekend created the kind of traffic you want to be stuck in. The exchange of ideas was amazing. If only corporate America had these types of positive, lively discussions the world would be in a better place, even without ChocoChange. But ChocoChange gives you that extra charge, which is what Elem’s activists have.

The team building exercises showed our ability to work together. We devised ways to drop eggs without breaking them from outdoor play sets and attempted to get coins and gather as many personal items as we could. And we relaxed by kayaking, swimming and chillin’ with lots of great food, music and tons of great ideas, there’s no doubt that the next year will rock.

Some of the heated arguments that occurred could be described as being symbolic of anger or miscommunication. Yeah, we need to work harder on a few things. But if we didn’t have compassion for what we are doing and real devotion to making changes for the children, we may have not been so tough with our words. Our heated discussions illustrate our steadfast commitment and willingness to work to make things better for those kids who need it.

To dive a little deeper into our work, we kicked off our program with a bunch of simple team building exercises to get our blood flowing. Nitzan played a few songs. We did a quick analysis of why we liked a particular tune. Then our path got steeper.

We moved outside and were charged with more difficult tasks. We successfully completed each one with quick-thinking and teamwork. All of our voices were heard and we all joined together as a team in overcoming all obstacles presented.

We moved into some free time and just bonded in the pool, on the lake or by listening to a great jam session led by Bator, Yuval and Ayelet. We heard some great guitar and ukulele playing accompanied by awesome vocals. We had an amazing BBQ. Everyone pulled together to make it taste great. We moved into some Jacuzzi time and just got to know each other.

Sunday arrived. After a great breakfast, we delved into more team building games. The top one was Rinat’s assignment to create chocolate product to change the world. Change the world we did with Azdek and ChoCoChange.

Itzhak Zur, a sports team psychologist led us in a lively discussion. We spent some time analyzing things we all need to do to make our team bigger, stronger and closer so we can achieve our endeavors.  His insightful commentary and thought leadership was inspiring.

We grilled some more, cleaned up, ate some watermelon and rode off to shake the world to give distressed children a chance.

Each task that was assigned was taken very seriously with an overwhelming amount of passion. At the end of the weekend, the feeling of empowerment to advance Elem’s cause was sky-high. We created a team that will rise to the top. Nothing will get in the way of our unwavering devotion to the children that need our support. I know I will do my best to do more. While words can tell a story, one must be mindful that a picture speaks a thousand words. So, for those who were there and for those who unfortunately missed this tremendous weekend, you can see below Ayelet’s images that speak billions of words. There’s no doubt her images will leave a lasting impression of our togetherness, which will only make you want to do more.

Retreat photos captured by Ayelet Levron

Retreat video by Ofir Yaloz

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