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About Billy Mills

Billy Mills, Oglala Lakota (Sioux), was raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. An Olympic gold medalist and Running Strong's National Spokesperson, he has dedicated his life to serving American Indian communities.

Billy Mills

Billy Mills was born on June 30, 1938 in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.  He is Oglala Lakota (Sioux) and grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  Billy did not have an easy childhood. Surrounded by poverty and orphaned at the age of 12, he started running to channel his energy into something positive.  In high school, his gift for running become more apparent as he set records in numerous track events.  He went on to earn a track scholarship from the University of Kansas and then served as an Officer in the United States Marine Corps.


At the 1964 Olympics, he shocked the world and came from behind to win the gold medal in the 10k race.  At the time, he set a world record of 28 minutes, 24.4 seconds and is still the only American to ever win a gold medal in the 10k event.   His win was an upset that has been called the second greatest moment in Olympic history.  In Lakota culture, someone who achieves great success has a 'giveaway' to thank the support system of family and friends who helped him achieve his goal.  As part of his effort to give back to his community, Billy helped found Running Strong for American Indian Youth and became the organization's National Spokesperson.  Today Billy travels over 300 days every year.  He visits American Indian communities throughout the U.S. and speaks to youth about healthy lifestyles and taking pride in their heritage.

In 2014, Billy Mills celebrated the 50th anniversary of his gold medal win by starting Dreamstarter, a grant program to jumpstart the dreams of Native youth.

Running BraveBilly was the inspiration for the movie Running Brave. The movie stars Robbie Benson and chronicles the story of Billy's life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the many obstacles he overcame to become an Olympic Champion. Copies  are available on the Running Strong store.

WokiniBilly and Nicholas Sparks co-wrote the book Wokini: A Lakota Journey to Happiness and Understanding. Now in its eighth printing, the book uses traditional Indian legends to teach life lessons about gaining happiness. Copies are availalbe on the Running Strong store.

Billy Presidential Citizens MedalBilly was awarded the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal by President Obama, for his work with Running Strong. The Presidential Citizens Medal is the second highest civilian award in the United States. It recognizes individuals "who [have] performed exemplary deeds or services for his or her country or fellow citizens."

“I am humbled and honored to be recognized by the President in this extraordinary way. The most powerful thing you can give to a child is a dream. I hope every child in Indian Country knows what is possible if you follow your dream.” -Billy Mills, on receiving the Presidential Citizens Medal

Billy and PatBilly is also a devoted husband, father, and grandparent.  He has been married to Pat Mills, a talented artist and owner of Studio Tupos, for over 50 years.  They are the proud parents of three daughters and many grandchildren.

 

Would you like to meet Billy Mills?

Join Team Running Strong


Run in the Marine Corps Marathon on Billy's team. Billy shares his inspiring story with you and the team .  Learn more here

Join us for our Reservations Tour.

Tour a Reservation
Travel through the Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservations and meet Billy Mills. Learn more here


Explore This Section

  • Dreamstarter chat

    Chat Live on 11/11/15 at 6pm Eastern Standard Time. Join Running Strong staff and some of the 2015 Dreamstarters to talk about Dreamstarter Year 2: Arts & Culture

  • Matching Gifts

    Many employers sponsor matching gift programs and will match any charitable contributions made by their employees. You can find out if your company has a matching gift policy on our site!

  • Donate to Dreamstarters

    Support the dreams of Native youth by making a gift to the Dreamstarter™ program.

  • Corporate Sponsorship

  • Running Strong is giving away fifty $10,000 grants over the next five years to jumpstart the dreams of American Indian youth.

  • Donate Stock

    Have you considered making a gift of stock to Running Strong for American Indian Youth®?

  • Eligibility and Requirements

    Dreamstarter grants are designed to help American Indian youth make a dream come true.

  • Dreamstarter™ FAQ

    Find answers in our Frequently Asked Questions section.

  • Dreamstarter™

    Running Strong is giving away fifty $10,000 grants over the next five years to jumpstart the dreams of American Indian youth.

  • Application & How to Apply

    Dreamstarter applicants and Mentor Organizations team up to apply for a Dreamstarter grant together. Each Dreamstarter Application must be signed and submitted by both the Applicant and the Mentor Organization.

  • Get involved in celebrating and commemorating Billy Mills' 50th Olympic Gold Anniversary!

  • Donate Your Car or Shop and Search for Charity

    There are so many ways to support Running Strong's important programs helping American Indian youth - and some of them are fun!

  • About Billy Mills

    Billy Mills, Oglala Lakota (Sioux), was raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. An Olympic gold medalist and Running Strong's National Spokesperson, he has dedicated his life to serving American Indian communities.

  • Interested in the Reservations Tour but still have questions? Watch videos of past tour participants as they share their experience with you!

  • Meet Board Member Clyde B. Richardson

  • Meet Board Member Ashley Wahiaronkwas Morris

  • Meet Board Member Katsi Cook

  • Meet our Treasurer, Emil Her Many Horses

  • Meet the Chairman of Running Strong's Board of Directors, James O'Brien, Esq.

  • Whether you have an extensive background in American Indian issues and history, or are learning about them for the first time, Running Strong has recommended reading suggestions for everyone.

  • Contact Us

    At Running Strong we truly value your feedback and encourage you to contact us with your questions, thoughts and concerns. This is your charity!

  • Accreditations

    A charity you can trust. American Indian Youth Running Strong is a proud member of:

  • Employment Opportunities

    Thank you for your interest in joining the Running Strong for American Indian Youth team. Please see below for a current list of available positions and volunteer opportunities with us.

  • Publications

    Check out Running Strong's publications to learn more about our programs and development.

  • Financials / Transparency

    Running Strong for American Indian Youth® is firmly committed to being a good steward of your generosity. It is very important to us that you stay informed of how your contribution is spent and of all new developments concerning our programs and the American Indian youth they support.

  • Team Running Strong USA

    Thinking about entering a race in your local community? Looking for ways you can help American Indian youth? You can participate in any event you choose as part of Team Running Strong USA! You will have access to all fundraising and training material and will be able to create your own fundraising webpage.

  • Team Running Strong in the Marine Corps Marathon™

    Want to learn more about Team Running Strong Marine Corps Marathon and how to join the only charity team in the Marine Corps Marathon that raises funds for Native American youth? Read more on our Team Running Strong Marine Corps Marathon page!

  • Support Team Running Strong

    Whether you want to cheer on runners on race day or support them in reaching their fundraising goal, you've found the right spot to learn more!

  • Wills/Bequests

    Consider leaving a lasting legacy that will help American Indian children of future generations. Offering a gift in your will is an incredible way to support Running Strong's cause.

  • The Combined Federal Campaign (CFC)

    Thank you Federal Employees for choosing #11876 in the Combined Federal Campaign to support Running Strong and our important programs.

  • Monthly & Workplace Giving

    Regular donations such as monthly giving and workplace giving provide consistent and reliable support for the programs you care about.

  • Team Running Strong

    Team Running Strong consists of two teams. Team Running Strong Marine Corps Marathon and Team Running Strong USA. Both are great teams to be a part of and support all of Running Strong's programs.

  • Staff & Board

    The Running Strong for American Indian Youth® Board of Directors is a supervising entity comprised of volunteer board members who perform the following functions in their respective governance roles. Learn about our Board of Directors and our dedicated staff.

  • Donate Now Online

    Make a secure credit card donation to Running Strong today.

  • This policy discloses what information is gathered about you when you visit our organization's network web sites or correspond directly with us. It describes how we use that information and how you can control it.

  • Other Ways to Get Involved

    We want you to be able to give in more than one meaningful way. Here are five easy ways you can support Running Strong without spending a dime!

  • Tour a Reservation

    For one incredible week, join Running Strong as we visit the programs you read about in our newsletters and on our website. Explore a hidden part of America and immerse yourself in Lakota culture.

  • Stay Informed

    Subscribe to our email list and like us on facebook to receive the latest updates about Running Strong. Also, become more educated about American Indian history and contemporary issues to gain a better understanding of the communities that we serve.

  • Get Involved

    We encourage you to get involved with Running Strong! Below you will find details on staying informed, our annual reservations tour, our charity marathon team, and other exciting ways to support our work.

  • Donate by Phone or Mail

    Donations are welcome in a three methods, please read to learn how to donate over the phone, online or in the mail!

  • Give

    Donate Now

    Help us create a better future for American Indian youth. With your support, we can raise a new generation of American Indian leaders who inspire positive change in their communities.

  • American Indian Life

    American Indian Life varies from reservation to reservation and from tribe to tribe. Here is a look into two reservations we have worked with since Running Strong for American Indian Youth's infancy, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation.

  • Billy Mills, Oglala Lakota (Sioux), was raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. An Olympic gold medalist and Running Strong's National Spokesperson, he has dedicated his life to serving American Indian communities.

  • Mission & History

    Running Strong's mission is to help American Indian people meet their immediate survival needs – food, water, and shelter – while implementing and supporting programs designed to create opportunities for self-sufficiency and self-esteem.

  • Our Programs

    Learn about how Running Strong's programs are creating opportunities for and empowering American Indian communities across the United States.

  • About Us

    Running Strong for American Indian Youth® is one of the most effective and respected American Indian nonprofits in the nation. With the help of our donors and committed supporters, we create lasting change in the lives of American Indian people, especially Indian youth.

  • The Poverty Cycle

    Many American Indian communities are impoverished, with some tribes reporting unemployment as high as 85%. While it is important to know these economic challenges, it is also important to know that tribes are dynamic, open to new ideas, and committed to improving their communities and their children’s future.

  • Traditions & Culture

    There are 566 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and villages in the United States, each with their own culture, language and history. Running Strong supports and respects all Native peoples, cultures, and traditions.

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Support Running Strong!

We invite you to make a difference in the lives of American Indian youth today by donating to our cause.