Less than three weeks to go before Santa harnesses up the reindeer, loads his sleigh and takes to the skies, which means the hard-working staff and volunteers at the Cheyenne River Youth Project® in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, also have less than three weeks to meet their goal of fulfilling the Christmas wishes of 1,500 children across the remote, 2.8-million-acre Cheyenne River Sioux reservation. More than 1,000 “Dear Santa” letters have been adopted to date, so CRYP is seeking generous donors to adopt the remaining 500.
“If we can encourage enough individuals, groups and organizations to adopt these last few hundred ‘Dear Santa’ letters, we can hit that 1,500 mark, which will be a new record for us,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “More importantly, it’ll mean that more children than ever will get to experience the joy and magic they deserve on Christmas morning.”
The CRYP Christmas Toy Drive started in 1990, when the not-for-profit youth organization started assembling all the year’s toy donations so it could distribute them to local families on Christmas Day. As the annual effort grew, CRYP began to solicit donations nationwide and even worldwide.
“We had to form our Family Services department in 2002 simply to manage the number of donations we were collecting,” Garreau recalled. “And every year since then, we remind ourselves that our purpose is to make sure that every child on this reservation can enjoy the Christmas holiday with the same happiness and excitement as children everywhere. So we’ve been working extremely hard to increase the number of children we serve with this program.”
For the last couple of years, CRYP has served approximately 1.200 children. This year, in honor of the youth project’s 25th anniversary, staff members decided to shoot higher.
“We believe we can do it with this program,” Garreau said. “It’s our longest-running youth program, and it has the broadest reach across Cheyenne River. It doesn’t matter where you live, or how remote your community is. We’ll do everything in our power to bring Christmas to your kids.”
Thanks to CRYP’s annual 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 1,500 children eagerly waiting for Santa, that means CRYP staff and volunteers are already sorting, wrapping and preparing to distribute many thousands of presents. In fact, “Dear Santa” letters have been pouring into the CRYP offices on East Lincoln Street for weeks now; these letters let CRYP know which gifts are most wanted — and what sizes of clothing, shoes, hats, gloves and mittens are most needed.
Staff and volunteers work very hard to solicit funds and in-kind donations from individuals and organizations around the world so they can match the Santa lists with just the right gifts and deliver beautifully wrapped packages to eager children and their families.
“For our kids, the donors and volunteers are literally making Christmas happen,” Garreau said. “That inspires all of us, especially when we are working such long hours for days and even weeks prior to the holiday.”
It’s a herculean undertaking, and Garreau acknowledged that CRYP would not be able to provide a happy Christmas for so many children without the financial contributions, gift donations and volunteer time provided by supporters around the country, and even around the world.
If you would like to support CRYP’s Christmas Toy Drive this holiday season, please click on the home page links for more information and to see the list of “Most Requested” gift items.
“Every contribution, no matter the size, will ensure that Cheyenne River’s children receive what all children should have,” Garreau said. “A merry Christmas, absolutely — and also the life-changing knowledge that they are loved and treasured. Your contribution shows our kids, in a very meaningful way, that someone cares.”