The Cheyenne River Youth Project® is officially kicking off its 25th anniversary celebration with its first-ever Harvest Festival on Wednesday, October 9. The festival starts at 5 p.m. at the Cokata Wiconi teen center, and it’s open free to the public.
The evening’s festivities will include a “Harvest Feast” community feed, games, door prizes and plenty of fun. The feast, in particular, will be a special celebration to honor the end of the summer growing season.
“Our menu will highlight the fresh produce from our Winyan Toka Win garden, including pumpkins, squash, zucchini and corn,” said Tammy Eagle Hunter, CRYP’s executive director. “The meal will be a celebration of the 2013 growing season, of a bountiful harvest, and of 25 years of healthy living here at the Cheyenne River Youth Project.”
Indeed, the event will include a special viewing of CRYP pictures and videos, and staff will be on hand to share their stories and memories with guests. What’s more, the quarter-century-old youth project will be formally dedicating the Morgan Yellowhead Gymnasium, which now boasts official scoreboards thanks to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Special Projects grant.
“We think the Harvest Festival is a beautiful way to launch our yearlong 25th anniversary celebration, because food truly does bring people together,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “A shared meal bonds us.
“And this particular meal is even more significant, because the food was all grown right here at Winyan Toka Win,” she continued. “It’s a powerful example of how a community can take meaningful strides toward true food sovereignty and security, and it’s a real demonstration of how reconnecting with the earth can be educational as well as foster lifelong wellness.”
CRYP’s staff and volunteers also are hoping for a large community turnout so they can take the opportunity to share information about CRYP’s facilities and programming — and thank neighbors and friends for the steadfast support they’ve shown for 25 years.
“We want to talk about everything we’re doing right now, and we want to share our vision for the future,” Garreau said. “We’re really looking forward to it.”
She also commented that the staff is working hard on a yearlong calendar of special events to commemorate this milestone anniversary for the not-for-profit, grassroots youth organization. Anniversary events will take place each month through September 2014.
“We’ve been here for a quarter century, we’re on our second generation of kids, and we’re 100-percent grassroots,” Garreau said. “We’re homegrown, and that fact that our organization comes from within the Cheyenne River community really does make us unique. This sort of thing doesn’t happen often in Indian country, and we’re very proud of it.”
CRYP was founded in 1988, making its first home in a former bar on Eagle Butte’s Main Street. Known affectionately as “The Main,” the organization dedicated itself to providing reservation youth with a safe, nurturing, positive place to learn, create, play and enjoy healthy meals and snacks, giving those most at risk a real opportunity to develop into healthy, well-rounded individuals.
In 1999, the organization was able to open a new 4,500-square-foot facility on East Lincoln Street; still known as The Main, it caters to children ages 4 to 12. Then, in 2006, CRYP opened the doors to its 26,000-square-foot Cokata Wiconi teen center, which serves youth ages 13 to 19. The youth project also incorporates the 2-acre, naturally grown, pesticide-free Winyan Toka Win garden (1999); and the reservation-wide Family Services program (2002), which provides much-needed household supplies, heat-matching and home-improvement assistance, as well as popular distributions such as the long-running Christmas Toy Drive.
“We’ve grown so much since that little bar on Main Street 25 years ago,” Garreau reflected. “It can seem like a lot has changed, but at its heart, CRYP is the same organization. We are here to take care of our local youth, to teach them to be proud of themselves and their identity; to easy the daily burdens on their families; and to support the growth of self-sufficient, vibrant communities across Cheyenne River. We’ve been pursuing that mission for 25 years, and we anticipate continuing to do so for another 25.”
Later this month, CRYP will be hosting a very special 25th anniversary edition of its annual haunted house at The Main. Titled “25 Years of Terror,” staff members are calling this their scariest haunted house ever; the doors will be open from 6:00 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. on October 29 and 30. The haunted house is open free to the public.
“In the weeks to come, we’ll be releasing more information about our 25th anniversary events going forward,” Garreau said. “This is going to be a very exciting 12 months.”
To learn more about the Cheyenne River Youth Project and its programs, and for information about making donations and volunteering, call (605) 964-8200 or or visit www.lakotayouth.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.