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Help Fulfill Christmas Wishes From More Than 1,500 ‘Dear Santa’ Letters

The staff and volunteers at the Cheyenne River Youth Project are running out of time to fulfill the Christmas wishes of 1,500 children in South Dakota
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The staff and volunteers at the Cheyenne River Youth Project are running out of time 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 this Christmas would be filled with hope, joy, and a little magic.

“Supporters who wish to join our Christmas Toy Drive efforts can contact us directly to get their Santa letters,” she said. “Or, if they would prefer to contribute funds, they can donate via our website or Crowdrise campaign, and we’re more than 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 it will soon become an around-the-clock race as Christmas Eve and Christmas Day grow ever nearer.

Following the December 4 and 5 holiday parties for the young people who attend the Cokata Wiconi Teen Center and The Main youth center, the nonprofit youth project will shut both centers’ doors until the new year. Staff and volunteers then will devote 100 percent of their time and effort to transforming Cokata Wiconi to a 24-hour Santa’s Workshop.

The team will be soliciting additional in-kind and financial contributions, arranging trucks to bring gifts from other locations to Cheyenne River, and sorting the many items already on hand to make sure the right gifts go to the right children.

Cheyenne River Youth Project

Loading up the toys for the kids on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.

Then there’s all the wrapping. With the goal of giving each child two to three gifts from his or her Dear Santa letter, plus much-needed winter clothing and shoes, the team will have the gargantuan task of prepping thousands of presents for the eager kids and their appreciative families.

“We need every single staff member, and every single volunteer, to make this Christmas miracle happen,” Garreau said.

Many supporters are already working hard, including Colorado-based law firm Fredericks Peebles & Morgan, Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado, the St. Louis Branch of CRYP in Missouri, and Running Strong for American Indian Youth in Alexandria, Virginia, not to mention the many generous individuals across the country and around the world. Garreau said she hopes additional supporters will join the drive and ensure that all 1,500 letters are adopted.

“During the last couple of years, we served approximately 1,200 children in the Christmas Toy Drive,” she said. “This year, we have 1,500 letters, so that’s quite a significant bump. And we need to do everything in our power to make sure all 1,500 kids will be on Santa’s list at Christmastime. For so many families on Cheyenne River, the household budget simply cannot stretch to cover winter clothes, much less holiday gifts. So these children are relying on us to be there for them.

“Think about how much Christmas means to a child,” she commented. “So for our kids, who often have to grow up way too fast due to circumstances beyond their control, this annual Christmas Toy Drive means everything. It means that, for at least one day, they get to enjoy just being a kid.”

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If you would like to support CRYP’s Christmas Toy Drive this holiday season, please see below for detailed information. Every contribution, no matter the size, will ensure that Cheyenne River’s children receive what all children should have: a very merry Christmas.

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

Cheyenne River Youth Project

Santa Claus makes an appearance.

How to Help

There are several ways to help CRYP reach its goal of serving 1,500 children during the 2014 Christmas Toy Drive:

Make a tax-deductible donation by sending cash, a check or a money order to: The Cheyenne River Youth Project, P.O. Box 410, Eagle Butte, SD 57625.

Make a tax-deductible donation via PayPal on the CRYP website.

Make a tax-deductible donation via Crowdrise.

Donate a gift. See the most-requested-gift list online or to request a specific “letter to Santa,” contact CRYP Family Services at (605) 964-8200 or via e-mail at

Donate gift cards, gift bags, wrapping paper, tissue paper, tape or anything else that might assist in toy-drive preparations.

Consider donating a Santa suit! We’d also love clothes for Mrs. Claus and the elves.

Spread the word. If you have friends or family members who might like to make a donation, please let them know how they can help.

VOLUNTEER! CRYP is in great need of volunteers who can travel to Eagle Butte and support the staff and existing volunteers as they strive to make this year’s Christmas miracles a reality. Contact CRYP at (605) 964-8200 to learn more.