“When I saw the smiling children and the parents taking the time to put their boots and jackets on really touched my heart. “It was awesome to see them all so happy with their new boots and winter wear.”
So said Tammie, the events coordinator of Spirit Lake Tribal Health in Fort Totten, after distributing winter coats and snow boots to children on the Spirit Lake Reservation in North Dakota.
Each fall, through our “Operation Snowsuit” program we provide thousands of children everything they need to withstand the brutally cold winters in North Dakota, Oklahoma, Colorado, Minnesota and elsewhere throughout Indian County literally from head to toe.
In addition to the heavy winter coats and sturdy boots, these children receive the hats, gloves, and scarves that they need to endure sub-zero temperatures with wind chill factors in the negative double digits.
Blayne, a second-grade teacher at Pawhuska Indian Camp Elementary in Pawhuska, Oklahoma told us that many students in the school’s student body come from families living in poverty.
“Some families simply just don’t have the money to purchase a warm winter coat,” said Blayne. “We have many, many students show up to school in below freezing temperatures with a wind chill of -5 degrees, with nothing but a sweatshirt, or light zip-up jacket.”
“Thank you for giving jackets to our family. My children loved being able to pick out their jacket and had to put it on right then and there!” – S.D.
The day after the school received a shipment of winter wear the temperature was 12 degrees and practically every single student showed up to school all decked with their new WarmStrong outerwear, she said, adding that the school has several students living in foster care that they were able to provide a warm winter coat and boots for.
“These items are much-needed in this part of the country in winter time.
“What a blessing for these students.”
At the Denver Indian Family Resource Center in Colorado, Rachel, the organization’s resource and referral specialist, explained that many of their clients count on items such as winter coats and boots provided by Running Strong to supplement the holidays for their children.
“Winter coats become holiday gifts and help families who are financially strapped engage in gift-giving for their children,” she said.
“We are so grateful to Running Strong for helping us to keep our Denver Native community warm!”
“I am ready for Minnesota cold!!” – R.J.
And in Minnesota, thanks to our supporters, Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul was able to distribute to even more children than in previous years, reported Noel with Interfaith Action.
“As a result, we had many happy parents and guardians who were thrilled that all of their children were able to get both jackets and boots this year.”
Interfaith Action’s clients know that it is Running Strong for American Indian Youth which provides the winter wear which are vital to help address their needs, and count on us to deliver winter after winter.
“Winter often begins while it’s still officially autumn in Minnesota,” she said. (In fact, the low temperatures this November are already in the teens.) “Clients begin asking in October when they can expect to receive outerwear.
“The parents we serve cannot afford new jackets and boots for their children, so they truly rely on this annual shipment.”
J.F., the grandmother of three young children, told us the Running Strong WarmStrong program fills a big need in her community.
“A lot of us do not have very good jobs and are raising our grandchildren on a very limited income.
“Every little bit helps my family.”
“Keeping warm in our new jackets while we are at our community pow-wow.” – C.F.
Tom, a volunteer who assists with the distributions, said he is privileged to help the families who are in need of the winter clothing.
“When winter arrives, we are able to give them warm coats, hats, gloves and boots,” he said. “It warms my heart to see how thankful the clients are and I know it relieves them of some of their financial burden.
“This is wonderful program that I am happy to be a part of.”