The Cheyenne River Youth Project reported today that children’s wish lists for this year’s Wo Otúh’an Wi Toy Drive are pouring into its offices. With just five weeks remaining until the winter solstice and the Christmas holiday, CRYP staff and volunteers are working around the clock to make sure they can make those wishes come true.
During this toy drive, which is CRYP’s largest and longest-running program, the nonprofit youth organization will serve more than 1,000 children in 20 communities across the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. To accomplish this herculean task, two important things must happen: Supporters must adopt the children’s wish lists, and CRYP must also raise funds for additional gifts to ensure no child is left out.
To make the former task just a little bit easier, CRYP has opened an online “e-store” that allows supporters to view, select and download their preferred wish lists directly from the website. The e-store can be found at lakotayouth.org/toy-drive/adopt-a-childs-wish-list/.
“We’ll be adding more wish lists as they continue to come through our doors,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “Our hope is that we will be able to provide three or four gifts from each child’s wish list, as well as warm winter clothing and shoes.”
Most toy drives simply provide age-appropriate gifts for a child. The Wo Otúh’an Wi Toy Drive ensures that each child receives gifts from their unique list, which arrive in personalized packages.
“That level of personalization became more challenging as the toy drive grew, but we’re dedicated to making this magic happen,” Garreau said. “Our children are so precious to us. They deserve to be seen, and to know that they matter. That being said, we couldn’t do any of this without what has become a nationwide movement to lift up our Lakota children. We are humbled and grateful every day for that movement.”
Next, to assist with the fundraising component of this initiative, CRYP has just launched its annual Winter Solstice Star Quilt Raffle. Tickets may be purchased through 12 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 25 at lakotayouth.org/win-a-star-quilt/; CRYP staff will announce the winner via Facebook Live on Friday, Dec. 29.
The public can assist in four ways: Buy tickets, offer to sell tickets, help spread the world by telling family and friends, and sharing details through social media. Tickets are $1 each or $5 for a six-ticket packet.
Not only does the star quilt raffle raise funds for the Wo Otúh’an Wi Toy Drive, it shines a spotlight on a traditional Lakota art — and on an acclaimed Cheyenne River artist. This year’s quilt, called “Blue Moon,” was hand-crafted by tribal member Bonnie LeBeaux.
For the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota peoples of the Oceti Sakowin Oyate, the Seven Council Fires, star quilts are valued gifts given to commemorate special occasions. The star pattern comes from early buffalo robe designs.
“Wo Otúh’an Wi means ‘Moon of Giving Away Presents’ in the Lakota language,” Garreau said. “Christmas is not a Lakota holiday, but it shares the values of generosity and care for others, which are deeply held Lakota values. We are humbled and honored that so many people seek to join with us to make this sacred time of year a blessed one for our community.”
To learn more about this year’s Wo Otúh’an Wi Toy Drive and how you can help, visit lakotayouth.org/toy-drive.
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.