It’s no secret that basketball is the most popular sport among Lakota youth on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. To celebrate their passion, encourage wellness and provide even more opportunities to hone their skills, the Cheyenne River Youth Project will be hosting a summer Midnight Basketball program and a dedicated basketball camp at its Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) facility.
The summer 2019 edition of Midnight Basketball will officially kick off at 9 p.m. next Friday, May 24, following a 5:30 p.m. appreciation dinner for CRST educators. The weekly program is open free to youth ages 13 to 18.
According to Youth Programs Director Jerica Widow, the evening’s activities will include half-court shots and a lightning elimination game, as well as open gym time and plenty of snacks and refreshments. Teens who belong to the Cokata Wiconi Walking Club also will be able to log more miles to put toward their final goal.
“Every teen who logs 10 miles by May 29 will earn an invitation to an overnight lock-in on May 31 here at Cokata Wiconi,” Widow explains. “It’s another great way to encourage wellness, because our teens always ask for lock-ins!”
The teens also are looking forward to a full summer season of Midnight Basketball. CRYP created the program in 1996, and it routinely draws 50 to 100 kids each week. 
“They want a safe, positive, drug- and alcohol-free environment to play their favorite sport,” Widow says. “Every Friday, they can play ball, hang out with friends, get something to eat, and stay up past Eagle Butte’s 10 p.m. curfew.”
And for the younger children who aren’t yet able to participate in the teen-centric Midnight Basketball program, CRYP has joined forces with CRST’s Indian Child Welfare Agency to offer the ICWA Basketball Camp on Wednesday, May 29. The camp is open free to students in 2nd through 8th grade.
The girls’ session is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Then, after a one-hour lunch, the boys’ session will take place at 1 to 4 p.m. The day promises to be educational and fun for all, thanks to the instructors who will be leading the camp.
“We’re absolutely thrilled to announce that our Cheyenne River teens will be leading the basketball camp,” Widow says. “It’s wonderful to see our older kids serving as leaders and mentors. That empowers the teens, and inspires the younger children. It’s deeply meaningful for everyone involved.”
The instructors are seniors Justice Fire Cloud, 18, Isaiah Hale, 17, Brad Iron Hawk, 17, Claudia Montgomery, 19, Naden Saucedo, 18, Talon Shaving, 18, and Warren Swan, 18; juniors Leon Brown Otter, 17, Rance Harrison, 16, Emaree Iron Hawk, 16, Nevyn Mendoza, 17, Mia Paris, 17, Markee Shaving, 17, and Adrianna White Wolf, 16; sophomores Lynda Charger, 15, Ronaye Moran, 15, Spencer Moran, 16, and Jordan Carter, 16; and freshman Alana LeBeau, 14.
“Not only does the ICWA Basketball Camp give our 2nd- to 8th-graders an opportunity to learn and practice their basketball skills, it also teaches them about personal responsibility, teamwork and positive self-esteem,” Widow says. “And, it will give them a taste of what we have to offer at Cokata Wiconi, from our wellness programming to our many teen leadership initiatives.”
CRYP’s ongoing wellness programming is made possible in part with support from CRST ICWA, the N7 Fund and Diabetes Action and Research (DARE). Their support ensures that the youth project is able to continue pursuing culturally sensitive, relevant and sustainable wellness programming for Cheyenne River Lakota youth.
To stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook (/LakotaYouth), Twitter (@LakotaYouth) and Instagram (@lakotayouth, @waniyetuwowapi).
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.