For the Cheyenne River Youth Project, the winter solstice season means it’s time to demonstrate the Lakota values of generosity and care for others through the annual Wo Otúh’an Wi (Moon of Giving Away Presents) Toy Drive. It’s also a time to come together and celebrate the warm spirit of the season.
CRYP will host its annual winter solstice party for children ages 4-12 on Thursday, Nov. 30 at “The Main” youth center. The annual winter solstice party for teens will take place on Friday, Dec. 1, at the Čhokáta Wičhóni (Center of Life) teen center. Both parties are scheduled for 4-6 p.m., and they will feature a “Grinch” theme.
“Christmas is not a traditional Lakota holiday, but we all can relate to the spirit of joy, magic and fun that infuses this time of year,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “Traditionally, the winter solstice was time for us to gather with family and friends to enjoy good food, tell stories, and simply be together. We’re looking forward to taking a break from toy drive preparations for these two evenings and celebrating this special season with our kids.”
At The Main’s winter solstice party, younger children will enjoy a hearty meal of ham, mashed potatoes, vegetables, green deviled eggs, and Grinch Punch. They will play games like “Pin the Tail on Rudolph,” “Find Rudolph’s Nose,” and “Holiday Musical Chairs,” and parents are invited to join a holiday edition of bingo. Everyone will have an opportunity to make hot chocolate bombs, and take home a gift.
The next night, teens will enjoy the same delicious meal and Grinch Punch, play special holiday editions of pong and bingo, participate in a “winter fishing pond” activity, and make decorations.
“All teens in our community are welcome to attend the party,” Garreau said. “Our teen interns certainly will be there, but we want to make sure our community knows that everyone is invited. The more, the merrier!”
After the parties, CRYP staff will conclude youth programming for the year so they can focus on the Wo Otúh’an Wi Toy Drive. This long-running annual initiative serves more than 1,000 children in 20 communities across the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.
“It’s a large undertaking, organizing and distributing thousands of gifts for so many hundreds of families,” Garreau said. “We are coordinating with partners and individual donors across the country, so it’s a lot of moving parts, but we love doing it.
“In a way, it’s our most important program, because it reaches children in every Cheyenne River community,” she continued. “It’s also deeply personal. Each child shares their precious dreams through their unique Wish List, and thanks to our donors and volunteers, they receive carefully selected gifts with their name on the tags. No matter how big the toy drive gets, we are dedicated to keeping this level of personalization. Our kids deserve to be seen, and to know how treasured they are.”
CRYP has opened an online “e-store” that allows supporters to view, select and download children’s Wish Lists directly from the website. The e-store can be found at lakotayouth.org/toy-drive/adopt-a-childs-wish-list/.
Garreau noted there are several other ways to help. Simply visit lakotayouth.org/toy-drive for details.
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, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
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.