My name is Laure Lachaud, and I have been a Cheyenne River Youth Project volunteer for a decade. A little about me: I first served as a long-term volunteer, living on the CRYP campus in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, for 18 months; after that, I became a seasonal volunteer, traveling from my New York home every December to help support the Wo Otúh’an Wi Toy Drive. (That’s me in the front, at left, in the white sweater.)
For me, Christmastime means CRYP. It means traveling back to my second home on Cheyenne River, and seeing all my friends again. It means weeks of working nonstop, around the clock, in a sea of Christmas carols and toys, making sure 5,000 presents get picked, wrapped, and delivered. It means laughing with friends, eating my weight in baked goods, working 12 hours a day, and seeing the faces of children light up when Santa Claus hands them their presents.
Unfortunately, I cannot make the trip to Eagle Butte this year. I am not exaggerating when I say that having to make this decision was agonizing. I love the Wo Otúh’an Wi Toy Drive. I love the hard work, I love the community, and I love the satisfaction of helping bring Santa to the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation. Realizing that it wasn’t going to happen this holiday season has been devastating. For the first time, I had to weigh the COVID-19 pandemic’s very real safety risks against my heartfelt commitment to CRYP. As much as I would have loved to make the trip, now is not the time. Now is the time to stay home, do everything we can to protect each other, and know that we all will be together again one day.
I have had the privilege of running the toy drive since 2017, and I was planning to coordinate this year’s drive as well. We started our Christmas planning during the summer months, knowing that 2020 would be very different. So, even though I cannot be physically present, I’ve remained involved; the staff and I have been brainstorming creative ways to adapt to the current situation, and devising new strategies to ensure that Santa’s Workshop will still be able to turn out gifts the same way it has for two decades while ensuring that staff and the community are safe.
One of the best things about CRYP is the staff’s resourcefulness, and their ability to adapt to any and all challenges that come their way. So even as I made the tough decision not to be there in person, we immediately started thinking of ways that I could still help from home.
And helping from home is what CRYP needs, especially in 2020. This year has been rough on everyone, and on Cheyenne River, it’s made a hard life even more challenging. If there was ever a year in which we all needed just a little extra joy and magic, it’s this one. That’s why it’s so important that we all pull together to help out. We all want to make this year special for the kids on Cheyenne River, and we can’t do it without your support. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a real difference.
Happy Holidays, be well, and stay safe.