Cheyenne River Youth Project 29th Annual Christmas Toy Drive sets new record

The 2018 Christmas Toy Drive at the Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte. Cheyenne River Youth Project served a record more than 1,700 children in its 29th Annual Christmas Toy Drive.Photo courtesy: Cheyenne River Youth Project

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Cheyenne River Youth Project served a record 1,700-plus children in its 29th Annual Christmas Toy Drive

News Release

Cheyenne River Youth Project

The Cheyenne River Youth Project has announced that it served a record number of children in its 29th annual Christmas Toy Drive. The nonprofit, grassroots organization also has released touching photographs from this year’s drive.

CRYP brought Santa Claus to more than 1,700 children across 20 reservation communities in 2018, a herculean task that was made possible through the support of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Spirit of Sovereignty Foundation, Square, Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, Gitlin Family Foundation, Toys for Tots and a broad range of additional nonprofit partners, businesses, schools and individuals across the country.

Santa helped unload presents at the 2018 Christmas Toy Drive at the Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte. Photo courtesy: Cheyenne River Youth Project

There were more presents and decorations than Santa's red sack could hold at the 2018 Christmas Toy Drive at the Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte. Photo courtesy: Cheyenne River Youth Project

​​“We’re so grateful to our donors and partners, as well as to all the dedicated volunteers who helped bring Santa to our kids,” says Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “This is such an important program, for many reasons. It’s not just about toys. It’s about bringing a little joy and magic into the lives of our children, who have to grow up far too fast here. It’s about letting them just be kids, and showing them how loved and treasured they are. It’s about easing the burden on their families. It’s really about making dreams come true.

Each year, CRYP staff and volunteers make sure that every child who writes a “Dear Santa” letter gets four gifts from that letter, which means working around the clock sort and wrap literally thousands of presents. It also means that donors and volunteers across the country are busy in their own communities, adopting letters, fulfilling precious Christmas wishes, and coordinating all the logistics to make sure the gifts make it to South Dakota’s remote, 2.8-million-acre Cheyenne River Lakota Nation in time for the holiday.

CRYP staff and volunteers make sure that every child who writes a “Dear Santa” letter gets four gifts from that letter, which means working around the clock sort and wrap literally thousands of presents. Photo courtesy: Cheyenne River Youth Project

​In December, big trucks pulled into CRYP’s 4th Street campus from Missouri and Colorado, bearing the precious fruit of local toy drives spearheaded by the St. Louis and Denver-Boulder chapters of CRYP. The latter now includes Fairview High School and the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business in Boulder; Lennar Homes, American Indian College Fund and Evolve Vacation Rental Network in Denver; and Fredericks Peebles & Morgan in Louisville.

And over the course of many weeks, donations and financial contributions pour into Eagle Butte from everywhere — even overseas. It’s a deeply personal effort, one that connects each child to those who want to make the Christmas holiday a special one for that child.

“Ever since we started the Christmas Toy Drive in 1990, we’ve been dedicated to keeping it personal,” Garreau says. “We don’t just give gifts to ‘boy, age 3’ or “girl, age 8.’ We want to let the children know that they matter, that Santa knows who they are. As we’ve grown, there definitely are challenges in maintaining that level of attention, particularly when we’re short-staffed — but we’re going to keep it personal, no matter how big it gets.”

Garreau says it’s worth all the hard work and lost sleep when staff and volunteers see the relief and happiness on the faces of the parents, and the joy and hope shining in the eyes of their children.

“This really is what Christmas is all about,” she explains, “and we’re forever grateful to the many partners who make this magic happen, year after year.”

Happy children with their presents at the 2018 Christmas Toy Drive at the Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte. Photo courtesy: Cheyenne River Youth Project

Santa wasn't scary for children at the 2018 Christmas Toy Drive at the Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte. Photo courtesy: Cheyenne River Youth Project

Children left their presents long enough to pose for a photo with Santa at the 2018 Christmas Toy Drive at the Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte. Photo courtesy: Cheyenne River Youth Project

'We want to let the children know that they matter, that Santa knows who they are,' says Julie Garreau, executive director of the Cheyenne River Youth Project. Photo courtesy: Cheyenne River Youth Project

​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 (/LakotaYouth), Twitter (@LakotaYouth) and Instagram (@waniyetuwowapi).

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.

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