CRYP welcomed 166 members of the community to the Cokata Wiconi teen center on Wednesday, October 9, for its first-ever Harvest Festival. This special celebration was the first in a series of 12 monthly events to commemorate the grassroots, not-for-profit youth organization’s 25th anniversary.
The evening’s festivities included a formal dedication of the Morgan Yellowhead Gymnasium, which now features official scoreboards thanks to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Special Projects grant. The highlight, however, was the Harvest Feast, which boasted fresh produce from CRYP’s 2-acre, naturally grown, pesticide-free Winyan Toka Win (“Leading Lady”) garden. The scrumptious menu thrilled guests, staff and volunteers alike.
“We offered roast beef with veggies, scalloped potatoes, ham with jalapeño jelly glaze, chicken in poblano sauce, stuffed green peppers, baked acorn squash, spaghetti squash casserole, corn, bread, macaroni and cheese, and chocolate zucchini cake,” said Tammy Eagle Hunter, CRYP’s youth programs director. “We wanted the meal to be a celebration of the 2013 growing season, and it absolutely was. We were able to join with family, friends and neighbors to pay our respects to the garden and share our joy in a bountiful harvest.”
The Cheyenne River community also was able to join CRYP staff and volunteers in celebrating 25 years of healthy living at the youth project, which has always been dedicated to holistic wellness for area youth. Not only were guests able to peruse information about personal health and diabetes prevention, they were able to enjoy photos, stories and favorite memories from a quarter-century of youth and family services at CRYP.
“It was a lovely way to bring people together and to launch our 25th anniversary,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “Sharing a meal is an incredibly bonding experience in Lakota tradition, and in creating this meal with the fresh produce from Winyan Toka Win, we hop to set a powerful example of how our community can embrace food sovereignty and security — and how we all can take charge of our own wellness.
“We also very much hope to see our East Lincoln Street campus continue to evolve as a community gathering place,” she added, “whether we’re sharing information and ideas in Cokata Wiconi, cultivating the earth in Winyan Toka Win, teaching and playing with the children at The Main, assisting our community through Family Services, or enjoying nourishing, healthy meals at our new Keya Cafe, which will have its soft opening in January.”
CRYP certainly has come a long way since it was founded in 1988, when it made its first home in a former bar on Eagle Butte’s Main Street and became known affectionately as “The Main.” From the very first day, 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 opened 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.
Next month, CRYP will be hosting a very special 25th anniversary edition of its annual “Thanks for Kids” dinner. The event is scheduled for Monday, November 25, at 5:30-7:30 p.m. More details will be available in the weeks to come.
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 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.