As October draws to a close, so does homecoming season for high school students across America. Spirit-week festivities and football-game revelry are long since ended, the toilet paper has been cleaned up from neighborhood trees and yards (well, mostly), and those prized dresses from The Big Night are back in bedroom closets. Perhaps they’ll be worn again. Perhaps not.
If not, just imagine those dresses bringing happiness to teenage girls who are seemingly a world away, on South Dakota’s remote 2.8-million-acre Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. The Cheyenne River Youth Project® is asking teenagers, and their parents, across the country to donate new or gently used homecoming dresses so they can become part of the 25-year-old, not-for-profit youth organization’s annual Passion for Fashion program. The program takes place each spring at CRYP’s Cokata Wiconi (“Center of Life”) teen center in Eagle Butte.
CRYP created Passion for Fashion in 2001, and it remains one of the project’s most popular and long-running programs. Its mission: to provide Cheyenne River teens with everything they need for a memorable prom night, while also fostering intergenerational exchange, bonding, self-esteem, and positive body image.
“For American teenagers, there is perhaps no greater rite of passage than the prom,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “It marks their formal entrance into adulthood, on a night that shines with friendship, hope, and promise. The future seems very bright on prom night.
“But for many of our teens, this shining version of prom night lies out of reach due to financial constraints,” she continued. “Here, our young people have to grow up very fast, and there isn’t much room for fun and frivolity. With unemployment hovering around 75 percent, there’s little money for basic household needs, much less for dresses, shoes, and accessories for the prom.”
Believing that Cheyenne River’s young people should have access to the experiences and lifelong happy memories that other American kids enjoy, CRYP designed a free one-day event that allows area teens to select the perfect prom dress, shoes, and jewelry; to enjoy pampering such as manicures, pedicures, and facials; and to experiment with different hairstyles and makeovers.
“Everyone should feel beautiful, special, and important for that one magical night of the high school prom,” Garreau said. “Our staff and volunteers work very hard to create that magic during Passion for Fashion, and the transformation we see in these girls each year is simply astounding.”
While attending Passion for Fashion, the teens also listen to a special presentation from a keynote speaker, and they savor a variety of dishes during a sit-down luncheon. They spend quality time with women of all ages from their community, and in the evening, they reveal their transformed selves on a formal catwalk.
All high-school girls on the Cheyenne River reservation receive personalized invitations to Passion for Fashion, and junior-high girls are welcome to attend as well. CRYP also welcomes teens from the nearby Standing Rock reservation, and from border towns such as Faith, South Dakota.
“Passion for Fashion has become so special to us largely because multiple generations of Cheyenne River women attend the event,” Garreau said. “Grandmothers, mothers, aunties, sisters and cousins celebrate with the girls as they prepare for prom. We’ve also been delighted to see how the teens support each other as they address such difficult issues as low self-esteem, poor body image and bullying.
“We have fun with the dresses and accessories, it’s true, but Passion for Fashion is about much more than that,” she added. “We give the girls important messages that we hope they’ll retain for the rest of their lives. It’s so rewarding to see these young women transform over the course of a single day. Words can’t describe seeing such inner beauty and confidence emerge — and watching new friendships develop that carry over into the teens’ everyday lives at school.”
For its 2015 Passion for Fashion event, CRYP needs new and gently used formal dresses in sizes 4 to 26, especially in sizes 16 to 26. It also needs shoes in all sizes, especially in sizes 9 to 12.
The organization also asks for jewelry and hair accessories; makeup and bath sets; gift cards and cash donations. Staff and volunteers will take any contributed funds and make additional purchases based on need.
For details regarding how you can support CRYP’s Passion for Fashion program through the 2014 Homecoming Dress Drive, see the “How to Help” information included below. And to learn more about the program, check out the video on CRYP’s YouTube Channel.
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.
The Cheyenne River Youth Project, founded in 1988, is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a wide variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities that ensure strong, self-sufficient families and communities.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
If you would like to support the Cheyenne River Youth Project’s Passion for Fashion program through the 2014 Homecoming Dress Drive, please considering contributing any of the following:
-New/Gently Used Homecoming Dresses (Sizes 4-26, especially sizes 16-26)
-Dress Accessories (Examples: Purses, Wraps, Scarves)
-Formal Shoes (especially sizes 9-12)
-Hair Accessories & Care Products
-Facial, Manicure & Pedicure Supplies
-Makeup and Bath Sets
CRYP usually makes a variety of additional purchases for the springtime Passion for Fashion event, including makeup, food and some accessories, so every contribution helps. Please send donations to CRYP at P.O. Box 410, East Lincoln Street, Eagle Butte, SD 57625. To make a financial contribution, either mail to the above address or simply click “Help CRYP” in the navigation bar above, and select “Monetary Donations.”
For more information, call (605) 964-8200 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.