With less than six weeks to go before Santa Claus arrives on South Dakota’s Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, the Cheyenne River Youth Project has announced several important happenings on this year’s holiday calendar. These include holiday parties at the Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center and “The Main” youth center, a public Christmas Toy Store, and a large-scale community wrapping party.
The first week of December definitely will be party central at CRYP’s Eagle Butte campus. For starters, the 4- to 12-year-olds who attend youth programming at The Main will enjoy their holiday party on Monday, Dec. 2, while the teens at Cokata Wiconi will celebrate on Tuesday, Dec. 3. 
The youth festivities will include an evening meal, sweet treats, gifts and holiday-themed activities. These will be the last official youth programs for 2019; both centers will reopen for regular programming after the New Year’s holiday.
Then, on Saturday, Dec. 7, nonprofit youth organization will host its annual Christmas Toy Store. This one-day event allows community members to purchase toys for their children without undertaking a 100-plus-mile trip.
“After that, staff and volunteers will be 100-percent focused on completing this year’s Wo Otúh’an Wi (Moon of Giving Away Presents) Toy Drive,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “We turn Cokata Wiconi into a 24-7 Santa’s Workshop so we can prepare literally thousands of gifts in time for families to pick them up on Dec. 18-22.”
This annual toy drive, now well into its second generation, fulfills the precious, deeply personal “Dear Santa” wishes of more than 1,700 children in 20 communities across Cheyenne River. In mid-December, trucks will arrive in Eagle Butte filled with gifts from Friends of Lakota Youth in St. Louis and from CRYP’s longtime Colorado partners, which include Fairview High School in Boulder, CU-Boulder’s Leeds School of Business, Lennar Custom Homes, the American Indian College Fund, and Fredericks Peebles & Patterson LLP.
Gifts also will arrive from the South Dakota State Girls Volleyball Tournament, the University of South Dakota Native American Law Students Association, and individual donors across the country and around the world. Preparing all of those carefully selected presents in time for Santa is, admittedly, a herculean task.
“Each child who wrote a letter to Santa will receive four gifts from his or her list, as well as much-needed winter clothing and shoes,” Garreau explained. “Our staff and long-term volunteers work around the clock in December, but it’s still a massive undertaking. 
“So, to bring this Christmas miracle to life, we host a community wrapping party each year,” she continued. “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a joyous experience, working together with family, friends and neighbors to support our kids. We encourage Cheyenne River residents and visitors alike to join us for this special, festive day.”
This year’s Wo Otúh’an Wi wrapping party is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 20 at Cokata Wiconi, which is transformed into a 24-7 Santa’s Workshop. As always, it promises to be a festive and deeply rewarding occasion for the Cheyenne River community.

“We’re deeply grateful to the volunteers who work so hard to bring hope and magic to our children,” Garreau said. “We also offer our gratitude to the many donors and service groups who adopt letters, and to the funders who help make this entire endeavor possible. To date, they include the Costello Companies, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, the Rapid City Woodworkers Association, the Spirit of Sovereignty Foundation, and Illinois-based Haven Middle School and Syri.
It’s not too late to support the Wo Otúh’an Wi Toy Drive and help make a child’s dreams come true this holiday season. Please click here for detailed information. Every contribution directly supports CRYP’s gift-giving efforts and makes a real difference in the lives of Cheyenne River’s children.
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.