The onset of December means two things for the Cheyenne River Youth Project. For one, the annual Christmas Toy Drive is moving into the home stretch, with donors and volunteers working long hours to ensure Santa Claus will visit more than 1,500 children across the Cheyenne River reservation. It also means it’s time to plan some holiday revelry.
From 4:30 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 6, the nonprofit youth organization will hold a Christmas party for 4- to 12-year-olds at “The Main” youth center. During the evening’s festivities, staff also will hold a special awards and completion ceremony for The Main’s Fall Book Club.
Taught by Brenna Crow, one of CRYP’s youth programs assistants, the six-week club incorporated books and literary games. Not only did the participants read and summarize the work of acclaimed author Paul Goble, they enjoyed Mad Libs, a Lakota word hunt, and age-group word finds.
“We’re so proud of those kids, and we’re looking forward to honoring them as we celebrate the holiday season,” says Jerica Widow, CRYP’s youth programs director. “We had such a steady group, and they were so enthusiastic. We were excited too, because this was the first time we created specific activities for different age groups and skill levels. It also was the first time we incorporated Lakota learning. The kids have been asking for that, and they loved it.”
The 13- to 18-year-olds will have their fun the next night. The teen Christmas party is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 7 at Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life), complete with refreshments, prizes, gingerbread houses ready for decorating, and more.
In the wake of the youth holiday parties, CRYP will close both centers until January so staff and volunteers can focus on the Christmas Toy Drive. In the final weeks of the program, large trucks from Missouri and Colorado will be arriving on Cheyenne River, filled with gifts from donors in metro St. Louis and metro Denver-Boulder. Other donations will arrive from other partner organizations and individual supporters across the country, and even around the world.
“This is a nationwide movement to bring Christmas to our children, and to show them how truly loved and precious they are,” says Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “Each gift proves to them that someone cares, and that dreams can come true.”
It’s not too late to help. CRYP is encouraging supporters to adopt a child’s unique “Dear Santa” letter, contribute funds, donate gift cards or wrapping materials, purchase or sell raffle tickets to win an authentic Lakota star quilt, and simply join the team in spreading the word. For more information, visit www.lakotayouth.org/toy-drive.
To stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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.