It’s the last week of November, and that means the staff and volunteers at the Cheyenne River Youth Project® have just four weeks to fulfill the Christmas wishes of 1,500 children on South Dakota’s remote, 2.8-million-acre Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. More than 1,000 letters have already been adopted by generous supporters, yet more remains to be done.
“We still have more than 400 ‘Dear Santa’ letters that need to be adopted,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “That means we still need to take care of 400 children who wrote heartfelt letters in the hope that this Christmas would be filled with hope, joy, and a little magic.
“Supporters who wish to join our Christmas Toy Drive efforts can contact us directly to get their Santa letters,” she continued. “Or, if they would prefer to contribute funds, they can donate via our website or Crowdrise campaign (see sidebar), and we’re more than happy to do the shopping on our end to make sure Santa comes to these deserving kids.”
Christmas is a big deal on the CRYP calendar. This year’s toy drive geared up in late summer, and in just a matter of days, it will become an around-the-clock race as Christmas Eve and Christmas Day grow ever nearer.
Following the December 4 and 5 holiday parties for the young people who attend the Cokata Wiconi teen center and The Main youth center, the not-for-profit youth project will shut both centers’ doors until the new year. Staff and volunteers then will devote 100-percent of their time and effort to transforming Cokata Wiconi to a 24-hour Santa’s Workshop.
The team will be soliciting additional in-kind and financial contributions, arranging trucks to bring gifts from other locations to Cheyenne River, and sorting the many items already on hand to make sure the right gifts go to the right children.
Then there’s all the wrapping. With the goal of giving each child two to three gifts from his or her Dear Santa letter, plus much-needed winter clothing and shoes, the team will have the gargantuan task of prepping literally thousands of presents for the eager kids and their appreciative families.
“We need every single staff member, and every single volunteer, to make this Christmas miracle happen,” Garreau said.
Many supporters are already working hard, including Colorado-based law firm Fredericks Peebles & Morgan, Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado, the St. Louis Chapter of CRYP in Missouri, and Running Strong for American Indian Youth in Alexandria, Virginia, not to mention the many generous individuals across the country and around the world. Garreau said she hopes additional supporters will join the drive and ensure that all 1,500 letters are adopted.
“During the last couple of years, we served approximately 1,200 children in the Christmas Toy Drive,” she said. “This year, we have 1,500 letters, so that’s quite a significant bump. And we need to do everything in our power to make sure all 1,500 kids will be on Santa’s list at Christmastime. For so many families on Cheyenne River, the household budget simply cannot stretch to cover winter clothes, much less holiday gifts. So these children are relying on us to be there for them.
“Think about how much Christmas means to a child,” she commented. “So for our kids, who often have to grow up way too fast due to circumstances beyond their control, this annual Christmas Toy Drive means everything. It means that, for at least one day, they get to enjoy just being a kid.”
If you would like to support CRYP’s Christmas Toy Drive this holiday season, please click here for detailed information. Every contribution, no matter the size, will ensure that Cheyenne River’s children receive what all children should have: a very merry Christmas.
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.