This is an important time of year for the Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte, South Dakota. Not only are staff and volunteers moving into the home stretch with the annual Wo Otúh’an Wi Toy Drive, they have announced improvements to their holiday offerings that will enhance the spirit of the season.
To start, the nonprofit youth organization has expanded its Keya Gift Shop to include authentic Lakota star quilts and a wide variety of native beadwork. The shop is one of CRYP’s three social enterprises, directly benefiting CRYP’s youth programs and contributing to the health and economic vibrancy of the Cheyenne River community.
The star quilts are handmade by Lynette Condon, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. She has been quilting for more than 30 years, using the traditional knowledge and skills passed down by her mother and grandmother.
“She’s been making Lakota star quilts since she was 18 years old,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “She says she loves making them the old-fashioned way.”
The Keya Gift Shop’s featured beadwork includes dreamcatchers and “wearable art” such as purses, lanyards, hair clips and earrings. The online store continues to carry clothing, posters, mugs, water bottles, coasters and books as well, and CRYP staff staff are offering free gift wrapping on all purchases this month.
With CRYP staff and volunteers wrapping many thousands of gifts for 1,700-plus children in the Wo Otúh’an Wi Toy Drive as well as wrapping gifts in the Keya Gift Shop, Garreau said her team looked for ways to be more environmentally sensitive.
“The holidays are tough, with all the packaging and wrapping materials,” Garreau said. “We don’t have the ability to have a 100-percent eco-friendly toy drive at this point, but we got one step closer this year by using eco-friendly wrapping paper and string. It’s less expensive that using traditional paper and tape, and it’s less damaging to the environment. That matters.”
At press time, all hands were on deck to sort and wrap gifts in CRYP’s 24-7 Santa’s Workshop. Earlier this month, the youth project welcomed a large truck overflowing with gifts from Friends of Lakota Youth in St. Louis; on Dec. 12, another truck arrived from Colorado’s Front Range, filled with gifts from 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.
“We’re also receiving gifts 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,” Garreau said. “It’s a tall order, to be ready for families to arrive on Dec. 18-22. After all, Santa can’t be late.”
In the unique Wo Otúh’an Wi Toy Drive, 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. It’s a massive undertaking, one that requires financial and volunteer support as well as adopted “Dear Santa” letters. It takes a village — a nationwide movement, in fact.
“We deeply appreciate the volunteers who work so hard to bring hope and magic to our children,” Garreau said. “Lyft, in particular, is incredibly supportive. They send volunteers to help us during the holidays, which means so much to us.
“We offer our gratitude to the many partners across the country who help make this entire endeavor possible—also including the wonderful people at Square, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, the Costello Companies, Partnership with Native Americans, the Rapid City Woodworkers Association, the Spirit of Sovereignty Foundation, and Haven Middle School and Syri in Illinois.”
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.