For nearly three decades, the Cheyenne River Youth Project® has been dedicated to fostering wellness among the Cheyenne River Lakota reservation’s young people. And to Executive Director Julie Garreau and her staff, that means more than simply providing meals, snacks and safe spaces to learn and play—it means teaching children how to make healthier choices in every aspect of their lives.

To that end, the nonprofit youth organization is kicking off its annual Bike Club for the 4- to 12-year-olds who attend youth programming at The Main, CRYP’s youth center. The club officially starts meeting today, Apr. 24, and will meet every Monday and Thursday throughout the spring, summer and early fall months.

CRYP will provide bikes, helmets and pads for all participants. Its teen wellness interns will serve as the bike club’s instructors, teaching the younger children how to prep their bikes and educating them about bike safety.

“A critical component of our wellness internship is youth mentoring,” said Tammy Granados, CRYP’s youth programs director. “Leading the Bike Club gives our teens the opportunity to actively mentor the younger children, which is a powerful step toward becoming community leaders.”

The teen interns also will have the opportunity to experience community partnership as they work with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s Youth Diabetes Prevention Program. Last year, program provided snacks of fresh fruits and vegetables each week, as well as gift certificates.

“We’re so pleased to be able to partner with this important local program again,” Granados said. “We’re also grateful for the ongoing the support we’ve received from the NB3 Foundation, the N7 Fund, Diabetes Action and Research (DARE) and the Wellmark Foundation, which make it possible for us to pursue wellness programming that keeps our kids active and promotes a lifelong love of outdoor recreation.”

Granados acknowledged that Cheyenne River’s children, who are forced to grow up far too fast under difficult circumstances, won’t be able to make better choices about nutrition physical activity without positive role models and mentors who can demonstrate how to make those choices—and serve as living proof that those choices matter.

“We need to lead the way,” she said simply. “Every choice we make is an example to our children, so we infuse every program we design with a deeper purpose. It’s all about good decision-making, strengthening connections to our traditional Lakota values and life ways, and building up our kids so they become healthy, resilient, well-rounded adults.”

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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.