More than 200 children of the Round Valley Indian Reservation in impoverished Covelo, California expressed joy and surprise when they were given the opportunity to pick several toys out of 2,500 new toys gifted by Crime Stoppers of Tacoma and Pierce County, Washington, during a Halloween party sponsored by the Tribe.
“The kids were saying, ‘Christmas on Halloween?’ with huge smiles on their faces!” said Round Valley Vice President Joe Dukepoo, who helped give out the toys. “It was a special day for our community. We were overwhelmed with compassion and unity.”
Lead by Pierce County Detective Ed Troyer and coordinator Tina Hagedorn, and in collaboration with Toys for Tots, Tacoma-Pierce County Crime Stoppers has recently focused its toy giving on poor tribal communities. In the last year, they have gifted toys to children on the Rosebud Indian Reservation and the Puyallup Indian Reservation, reported the Rapid City Journal; to the families who lost their homes and all of their belongings in the White Swan fire disaster on the Yakama Indian Reservation, reported Indian Country Today Media Network in "Yakama Nation Reeling After Fires"; and to urban Indian children in Seattle who are served by the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation.
"We gifted over 20,000 toys to reservations this year and want to help all communities in need,” said Det. Troyer. “I learned a lot about the history of tribes and hope that other people take time to understand what is going on right here in America."
“Giveaway is giving back and expressing gratitude for the many blessings and kindness extended to my family by Native people,” explained Hagedorn. “It is enjoyable and brings joy during tough economic times.”
Round Valley, the second largest reservation in California, is one of Indian Country’s poorest reservations. Covelo is very isolated, accessible via a windy two-lane highway, and nearly an hour’s drive from the nearest town. The numbers are staggering: 89 percent of Round Valley citizens are unemployed; 68 percent live below the poverty line; and 100 percent of Indian children in Covelo qualify for free school lunches.
“If you took all the kids’ smiles and placed them end to end, they would stretch completely around the borders of our Reservation,” said Eugene Jamison, Jr., Round Valley Tribal Councilperson. “It made me feel good to see something so simple make them so happy.”