December 2020 E-News

Holiday Parties Bring Cheer to the End of the Year


This Christmas, we are determined for Native American children to have a wonderful holiday, ensuring that “Santa” does not pass them by regardless of their parents’ financial situation after surviving the year.

As we have every year, thanks to the supporters of Running Strong, we provide grants to our partners so they can host holiday parties for many children throughout Indian Country take part in the joy of the season and leave with at least one nice present and holiday memories.

Among them are Today We Follow-Tomorrow We Lead in Chinle, AZ, where president Anita Begay has planned a distribution for December 23. Santa’s sleigh will visit home to home, delivering toys, warm blankets, and bags of coal – a welcome gift on the Navajo Reservation!

“I think by continuing to have the Christmas Winter Wonderland gift-giving event for children will be GREAT!” said Anita. “Children need to be happy, positive, and have the feeling that they are not forgotten – no matter what their situation is.


#OperationSnowsuit is Underway!


For decades, our partners, and the Native American children and families they serve throughout Indian Country, have made it through the winter months with the support of our generous donors, who make our annual #OperationSnowsuit possible.

This week, 3,000 new child-size, winter coats, 1,500 adult-size coats, 3,500 pairs of gloves, hats and scarves, 4,000 pairs of toddler and child-size boots and 2,000 blankets will arrive to our field office on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. In addition, 20 of our partners in several states including AZ, CO, KS, MN, MT, NY, ND, OK, SC, SD, and UT will also be receiving this warm weather gear, where the need is particularly great.

Kelly Miller, director of Interfaith Action, Department of Indian Work in St. Paul, Minnesota, passed along some words of gratitude to the supporters of Running Strong from their grateful clients. One recipient exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, they are so warm!,” while another commented, “You guys literally saved my life; I had the same ripped coat from last year.”


Keeping Families Fed Through The Winter 


The long, cold winter months are often the hardest to get through for the families and Native communities we serve. Utility bills climb, seasonal work often ends, and atop everything else, the pandemic has shaken our communities to their cores. However, Running Strong and our supporters are determined to see these families through the winter.

In November and December alone, we sent 2,400 boxes of food to our field office on Pine Ridge and the Eagle Butte Food Pantry on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, as well as 2,000 turkeys, which were a relief to so many families.

While always a great need, this year has caused significant additional hardships on already struggling Native American families and the emergency supplemental food shipments have helped to ease their burden, allowing families to stretch their grocery budget further and keep their families fed at home.


Dreamstarters Aukea and Jenna make their Dreams Come True 


On December 5, 2019 Running Strong for American Indian Youth Dreamstarter® Aukea Ka’aekuahiwi (Native Hawaiian), 17, of Kapaa, HI, realized his dream project, “The Swine Project,” of producing and selling traditional foods by building a certified underground community barbecue pit known as an “imu” and teaching other Native Hawaiian youth the practices for creating traditional pork products.

Aukea told the three dozen people who gathered at the site for the ceremony (all wearing masks) that as part of his $10,000 Dreamstarter grant program he was determined to “make a sow pen, and make a cooker, and also something that could give back to the community.”

2016 Dreamstarter® Jenna LaViolette (nee Smith) has also realized her dream of bringing ballet back to the Osage Reservation through her project, “Dance Maker Academy.” On December 8 and 9, Dance Maker Academy presented their fourth annual Nutcracker Ballet at the Constantine Theater in Pawhuska, Oklahoma with academy students in the roles.

“Last year we were humbled by the generous support from our community and were able to buy 112 costumes, two backdrops and staging for our premier Nutcracker. What had previously been hopes and dreams became a reality for our children as they participated in this beautiful ballet event and performed for a full house,” LaViolette told Osage News.

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