Holly has not had running water for eight years, even though her mobile home is just 150 feet from the Oglala Sioux Rural Water Supply System (OSRWSS) water line which runs through the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Holly’s household of seven includes herself, two elders, and four children under the age of 9, the youngest just 2-years-old.

When she contacted OSRWSS for help, she was told “They have not assisted with waterlines since October 2016.”

That’s when she turned to Running Strong for American Indian Youth®.

Holly and her family have utilized Running Strong’s programs including our food boxes and holiday turkeys, backpacks filled with school supplies and winter coats for the children, and have also benefitted from Running Strong’s Heat Match program, ensuring they stay warm during the frigid South Dakota winters.

She is appreciative of all that her family has been able to receive thanks to the supporters of Running Strong, and when she turned to our water coordinator, Ken Lone Elk, she was cautiously optimistic that he would be able to help her family.

For the past four years, Ken has been evaluating the homes most in need of water on the reservation, and through Running Strong’s Mni Wiconi (Water is Life) program, he has overseen the connection of water lines to dozens of households like Holly’s.

Upon learning of her family’s situation on July 1, Ken made her home a priority and within a matter of a couple of weeks her family had running water and a 500-gallon septic tank, enabling the family to utilize their indoor plumbing.

The cost was not inexpensive at more than $7,400 (about the average cost to provide a home with water on the reservation) and would have been a challenge for Holly to cover herself.

Today, Holly and her family have access to the fresh, clean water they need for drinking, cooking, bathing and washing.

In addition, we were able to ensure that all the children had “Smile Strong” dental kits now that they have the water they need to brush their teeth twice each day, and a stockpile of diapers for the youngest children.

For Holly and her family, the gift of water amounts to the realization of her greatest wish.

“I am really thankful and appreciate Ken and the supporters of Running Strong for all they do for my people on Pine Ridge.”

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