December is just around the corner, and the first two weeks of the month are going to be busy ones at the Cheyenne River Youth Project® in Eagle Butte, South Dakota. To start, CRYP will be hosting the 3rd annual Holiday Artists’ Market at 1-4 p.m. on Sunday, December 8 in the Cokata Wiconi teen center; then, on Monday and Tuesday, December 9 and 10, the 25-year-old, not-for-profit, grassroots youth organization will host 25th anniversary versions of its annual teen and youth holiday parties at Cokata Wiconi and The Main youth center.
It’s not too late for Cheyenne River artists, vendors, craftspeople and chefs to get involved in the Holiday Artists’ Market as CRYP is actively encouraging community members to participate. Simply call (605) 964-8200 to book a booth, which costs $15. All fees benefit CRYP’s youth programming and services; vendors keep their own proceeds from sales. Space is limited, so those interested are encouraged to book soon.
In addition to the vendor booths, which will include CRYP tables loaded with produce, crafts and other goodies from the Keya Gift Shop, the Holiday Artists’ Market will feature dazzling Christmas Toy Shop decor, visits with Santa Claus and great family photo opportunities.
Next, at 4-7 p.m. on Monday, December 9, CRYP will host a “25 Years of Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” party at The Main for children ages 4 to 12. At the party, children will make Christmas ornaments and cards, decorate cookies and assorted Christmas trees, listen to plenty of merry Christmas music and participate in a Karaoke Dance Party. There will be a hearty supper, as well.
“We’re going to serve salad, lasagna, bread, cookies and hot chocolate,” reported Tammy Eagle Hunter, CRYP’s youth programs director. “We’re also going to have a movie with popcorn and have the kids play games for prizes, like musical chairs, pass-the-parcel and a cake-and-cookie walk.”
Youth ages 13 to 18 will have their turn with their very own teenage “25 Years of Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” party at 5-8 p.m. on Tuesday, December 10 in Cokata Wiconi’s Keya Cafe and Morgan Yellowhead Gymnasium. Like the younger kids’ version at The Main, the party is part of CRYP’s ongoing 25th anniversary celebrations, which will continue monthly into 2014.
“Not only do we want to celebrate Christmas with our teens in a fun, safe and drug-and-alcohol-free way, we want our kids to join with us in celebrating the youth project’s 25th anniversary,” Eagle Hunter explained. “It’s a big deal to us. We’re on our second generation of kids, and for a grassroots not-for-profit in Indian country, that’s pretty remarkable.”
For the party, the Keya Cafe will be set up as a craft area, with all games taking place in the Morgan Yellowhead Gymnasium. From 5 to 7 p.m., teens may play pass-the-parcel, try to win the cookie walk, play Christmas trivia, and divide into teams to decorate a person as a Christmas tree. The team with the best tree will win a prize.
During the same time frame, teens also can make Christmas cards, gingerbread houses and ornaments in the cafe space. Dinner will be served there at 7:15 p.m. Homemade chili and cornbread are on the menu, plus cookies and hot chocolate.
“We’re really looking forward to the parties, because this is the time when our centers are really transformed for the holidays,” Eagle Hunter said. “The decorations, the music, the delicious foods and warm drinks, the gifts and prizes, and all the fun and laughter… we do our best to make holiday magic come to life here at CRYP for our kids. They deserve it.”
After the parties, both centers will close until after the New Year’s holiday so staff and volunteers can run the 24-hour Santa’s Workshop for the annual Christmas Toy Drive. Family Services will resume at 10 a.m. on January 1, The Main’s doors open at 4 p.m. on January 2, and Cokata Wiconi opens at 5 p.m. that same day.
During the Christmas Toy Drive, every staff member and every volunteer is needed to solicit donations, raise funds and unload trucks that are bringing donated gifts from other locations. Then, the group works long hours every day to sort, wrap and prepare to distribute literally thousands of Christmas presents. This year’s goal: to fulfill the “Dear Santa” wishes of 1,500 children in more than 20 communities across the remote, 2.8-million-acre Cheyenne River reservation.
Community volunteers are always welcome to join CRYP staff and the on-site volunteer corps, especially on the night of the annual Community Wrapping Party. This year, the party is scheduled for 5 p.m. on December 22 to 12 a.m. on December 23.
Thanks to the Christmas Toy Drive, each participating child receives one or two gifts from his or her “Dear Santa” list, plus much-needed winter clothing. And with autumn drawing to a close, many of Cheyenne River’s families have already completed their special “Dear Santa” letters on behalf of their children. These letters let CRYP know which gifts are most wanted — and what sizes of clothing, shoes, hats, gloves and mittens are most needed.
As the letters continue to pour into the CRYP offices, staff and volunteers continue to solicit funds and in-kind donations. And they match the Santa lists with just the right gifts so they can deliver beautifully wrapped packages to delighted children and their families, whether they come in to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus on Christmas Eve at Cokata Wiconi or await a special visit from Santa and the elves on Christmas Day.
With just a few weeks left before Christmas, there is still much to be done. If you would like to support CRYP’s Christmas Toy Drive this holiday season and would like to learn more, please go to our home page and click on the article link and the link to our “Most Requested” gift list. You also are welcome to call CRYP at (605) 964-8200. Every contribution, no matter the size, will ensure that Cheyenne River’s children receive what all children should have: a very merry Christmas.
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.