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Friends of CRYP

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    Together, We Brought Santa Claus to More Than 1,300 Children

Together, We Brought Santa Claus to More Than 1,300 Children

It takes more than a Christmas blizzard to stop the Cheyenne River Youth Project®. Despite subzero temperatures, howling winter winds and mountainous snow drifts, the nonprofit youth organization still managed to bring Santa Claus to more than 1,300 excited children across South Dakota’s Cheyenne River Lakota reservation this year.

As always, volunteers from around the country and Europe converged on CRYP’s Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center, which had been transformed into a 24-7 Santa’s Workshop for the month of December. These dedicated helpers worked around the clock to sort and wrap thousands of gifts arriving from every corner of the United States.

These gifts came from long-standing partners like the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation and Running Strong for American Indian Youth, both based in Virginia; the Spirit of Sovereignty Foundation in Minnesota; the St. Louis Chapter of CRYP in Missouri; and Fairview High School, student groups at CU-Boulder, Fredericks Peebles & Morgan law firm, the American Indian College Fund and Lennar Construction, all in Colorado. But they also came from generous individuals whose contributions arrived in many forms.

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    Less Than Three Weeks Remain to Help CRYP Bring Santa to Cheyenne River

Less Than Three Weeks Remain to Help CRYP Bring Santa to Cheyenne River

Less than three weeks remain before Christmas Eve and the arrival of Santa Claus on the Cheyenne River Lakota reservation. More than 1,600 children are eagerly awaiting his sleigh, hoping to receive the special gifts they shared with him in their Dear Santa letters.

Bringing Christmas to hundreds of families in 20 communities across the remote, 2.8-million reservation is a massive undertaking. It’s a lot of gifts. But the toy drive is about so much more than that. For too many Cheyenne River families, household budgets simply cannot stretch to cover winter clothes, much less holiday gifts and all the seasonal trimmings and trappings. That can take its toll on children here, who don’t understand why Christmas magic seems to belong to so many others, but not to them.

Tammy Eagle Hunter, CRYP’s youth programs director, recalled witnessing a little boy turn down the opportunity to tell Santa Claus what he wanted for Christmas.

“He said, ‘Why should I? I’m not going to get it anyway. I ask for it every year,’” she said. “That broke my heart, to see a child without hope—to see him discount the possibility that he might receive something precious to him, and that he might experience a heartfelt wish coming true. That’s why we work so hard at CRYP during the holiday season. Our children often have to grow up way too fast due to circumstances beyond their control. On Christmas, at least for one day, they should get to celebrate the joy of just being a kid.”

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    Enter to Win Lakota Star Quilt & Support Our Christmas Toy Drive

Enter to Win Lakota Star Quilt & Support Our Christmas Toy Drive

To celebrate the spirit of the season, and continue to raise much-needed funds so it can bring Christmas cheer to more than 1,600 children this year, the Cheyenne River Youth Project® is hosting a Winter Star Quilt Raffle. Tickets are on sale until the end of the day on Friday, December 23, and on Monday, December 26, CRYP staff will announce the lucky winner who will be receiving a handmade, queen-size Lakota star quilt.

Bonnie LeBeau, a Cheyenne River Sioux tribal member, hand-crafted the seasonally inspired quilt, which has been named “Prairie Winter.” According to Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director, all funds raised through the raffle will benefit the annual Christmas Toy Drive, one of the nonprofit youth project’s longest-running and most important programs.

“We’re hoping to raise $3,000 in this year’s star quilt raffle,” Garreau said. “Those funds will go directly to our toy drive, which serves more than 1,600 children ages 4 to 18 in communities across our 2.8-million-acre reservation.”

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    CRYP Launches Annual Christmas Toy Drive for 1,600+ Children

CRYP Launches Annual Christmas Toy Drive for 1,600+ Children

By the time fall arrives, countless children are already writing their letters to Santa Claus, already counting down the days until he arrives with his bountiful stocking-stuffers and beautifully wrapped packages. Countless parents are already making their annual holiday to-do lists, hoping that they’ll get the holiday cards, shopping, baking, and decorating done on time this year.

Unfortunately, that’s not the reality for everyone. When there is no room in the family budget for gifts, much less ornaments or Christmas cookies, the holidays are likely to be stressful and sad rather than merry.

That’s why the Cheyenne River Youth Project started its annual Christmas Toy Drive more than a quarter century ago. On the Cheyenne River reservation in north-central South Dakota, the unemployment rate hovers near 75 percent, and approximately 60 percent of households with children under the age of 18 fall below the poverty line. Here, too many children would likely have no Christmas at all, so CRYP stepped in to help Santa Claus—and ease the burden on families who have so little.

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The RedCan Graffiti Jam is About So Much More Than Art

Earlier this month, the Cheyenne River Youth Project® hosted its 2nd annual RedCan graffiti jam, and by all accounts, the second incarnation was even more successful than the first. If last year’s inaugural RedCan was all about introducing the Lakota and graffiti art communities to each other, then this year was about taking the entire experience to the next level.

“You could feel the energy in town,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “Everyone knew what RedCan was about, and the atmosphere was buzzing.”

New headliners included Scribe from Kansas City, Missouri; Serval from Switzerland; Cyfi from Minnesota’s Twin Cities; and ER from Austin, Texas. Returning for a second year were East, from Denver; Kazilla, from Miami; and Biafra Inc., Daesk and Wundr, all from the Twin Cities.

Native artists joined the visiting artists in the art park and around town. Focus and Rehst, both members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, traveled to Eagle Butte from Rapid City, while Leland Benoist and Annie Chasing Hawk call the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation home. (In an interesting footnote, two of the headlining guest artists also have native roots: East has Cherokee heritage, and Cyfi has Yaqui heritage.)

“Being able to paint with the likes of Serval and East, artists I grew up admiring, was a highlight for me,” Focus said.

And the creativity they unleashed together in Eagle Butte was simply astounding.

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    CRYP is a Finalist for ArtPlace America’s National Creative Placemaking Fund

CRYP is a Finalist for ArtPlace America’s National Creative Placemaking Fund

The Cheyenne River Youth Project® has announced that it is a finalist for ArtPlace America’s National Creative Placemaking Fund. The nonprofit, grassroots youth organization is one of just 80 projects to be selected from a pool of nearly 1,400 applications.

ArtPlace focuses its work on creative placemaking—projects in which art plays an intention and integrated role in place-based community planning and development. According to Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director, this focus aligns well with the youth project’s own mission on South Dakota’s remote, 2.8-million-acre Cheyenne River Lakota reservation.

“We have always believed strongly in a holistic approach to individual wellness and community development,” Garreau explained. “We also know that solutions to local challenges must be rooted in the local community. They must be culturally appropriate and relevant, and they must take into account that community’s unique challenges and opportunities.”

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    PLEASE HELP: 300+ “Dear Santa” Letters Remain to be Adopted

PLEASE HELP: 300+ “Dear Santa” Letters Remain to be Adopted

Christmas is a little more than two weeks away, which means the clock is winding down for Cheyenne River Youth Project® staff and volunteers as they prepare to bring Santa Claus to 1,500 children across South Dakota’s remote, 2.8-million-acre reservation. More than 300 “Dear Santa” letters remain to be adopted — but it’s not too late to help.

“All you need to do is contact us for a ‘Dear Santa’ letter, which will contain a child’s wish list for Santa and his or her shoe and clothing sizes,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “Or, if you would prefer to contribute funds, you can donate through our website at lakotayouth.org. We’ll do the shopping on our end, ensuring that every child who wrote to Santa will have something special underneath the tree this year.

“Donated funds also will help us feed and house the many volunteers from around the world who come to support us during the Christmas Toy Drive,” she continued. “We couldn’t do it without their help, so we are grateful for any financial support we can get.”

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“Home: Cheyenne River Lakota Nation” is Now Available

Four years ago, a Colorado-based creative team embarked on a fine-art photography project designed to celebrate life on north-central South Dakota’s remote Cheyenne River reservation, home to four bands of the Lakota nation. Richard and Heather Steinberger, a photographer-writer team from Bailey, Colorado, joined forces with Evergreen, Colorado-based photographer Matt Normann to develop a coffee table book that would introduce Cheyenne River’s landscapes, flora and fauna, communities, traditions and residents to a larger audience.

That book is now available to the public through Amazon, and the creative team has announced that 100 percent of the proceeds from book sales will benefit the 27-year-old, not-for-profit Cheyenne River Youth Project® in Eagle Butte. CRYP will use those funds to meet needs wherever they are greatest, from youth programming to family services.


“We’ve always strongly believed that Cheyenne River’s story is one of hope, not one of despair,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “So when Heather, Richard and Matt first approached us with the idea for this project, we were very excited. Our community really got behind them, and the end result is a beautiful book that really was a team effort. We’re all very proud of it.”

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    CRYP Receives $25K Grant from the O.P. and W.E. Edwards Foundation

CRYP Receives $25K Grant from the O.P. and W.E. Edwards Foundation

The Cheyenne River Youth Project® has announced that it has received a $25,000 grant for 2016 from the Red Lodge, Montana-based O.P. and W.E. Edwards Foundation. The 27-year-old, not-for-profit, grassroots youth organization will use this much-needed funding to support daily operations at its large East Lincoln Street campus and to continue expanding its culturally sensitive, enduring and engaging youth programs throughout the year to come.

The O.P. and W.E. Edwards Foundation’s General Fund supports organizations that “help provide a bridge to a life of greater opportunity to low-income, at-risk, underserved youth and children.” In particular, the foundation focuses on assistance that is holistic and long-lasting, and that addresses the significant factors that impede success in education and life. According to Amy Hyfield, the O.P. and W.E. Edwards Foundation’s executive director, CRYP was a perfect fit.

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    CRYP Prepares for Annual Holiday Parties, Seeks Donors for 400+ “Dear Santa” Letters

CRYP Prepares for Annual Holiday Parties, Seeks Donors for 400+ “Dear Santa” Letters

The Thanksgiving holiday is upon us, which means the Cheyenne River Youth Project® has just one month left to fulfill the Christmas wishes of 1,500 children on South Dakota’s remote, 2.8-million-acre Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. More than 1,000 letters have already been adopted by generous supporters, yet more remains to be done.

“We still have more than 400 ‘Dear Santa’ letters that need to be adopted,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “That means we still need to take care of 400 children who wrote heartfelt letters in the hope that Santa Claus would bring a little extra happiness and magic to their homes this Christmas.

“Supporters who wish to join our Christmas Toy Drive efforts can contact us directly to get their Santa letters,” she continued. “Or, if they would prefer to contribute funds, they can donate via our website. We’re happy to do the shopping on our end to make sure Santa comes to these deserving kids.”

Christmas is a big deal on the CRYP calendar. This year’s toy drive geared up in late summer, and in just a matter of days, it will become an around-the-clock race as Christmas Eve and Christmas Day grow ever nearer. But first, CRYP will host its eagerly anticipated, annual holiday parties for the 4- to 12-year-olds at The Main youth center and the teenagers at the Cokata Wiconi (“Center of Life”) teen center.

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