6 years ago, Running Strong launched the Dreamstarter® Program to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Billy’s Olympic victory.
Dreamstarter® was created to make the dreams of Native youth a reality through financial investment, mentorship, and community. Since its inception, the program has been more successful than we could have ever imagined. Running Strong has given away over $850,000 in grants to 60 amazing Native youth from 37 tribal nations and 24 states. We have witnessed their dreams come to life and impact their communities. Each Dreamstarter® has an amazing story, and we’re blown away by their success.
What was originally designed to be a five-year pilot program has become an essential part of Running Strong. We are thrilled to see it continue year after year, and on October 27, 2020, we launched a new initiative to support our Native youth’s dreams: Dreamstarter® Gold.
Dreamstarter® Gold recipients are a collective of Indigenous leaders working throughout Turtle Island dedicated to implementing positive change for present-day and future generations of Native youth to: pursue their dreams on their terms; promote wellness for themselves and their communities; reimagine what it means to be Indigenous; and reinforce connections between one another and the land.
Dr. Sara (Chase) Merrick, PhD
Hoopa Valley Tribe
Dr. Merrick’s Gold dream is to transform her original Dreamstarter® project of a one-week Hupa Language Immersion Camp into a four week-long camp for 30 Hupa youth ages 5-10 and their families. The camp teachers, comprised of Dr. Merrick and local Hupa speakers, will teach conventional school subjects in a uniquely Hupa way through culturally based activities and the Hupa Language.
Fast Facts: Dr. Merrick recently earned her PhD in Education, Literacy, and Culture from U.C. Berkeley, where she is the first student to concentrate in their new Indigenous Language Revitalization program.
Noah’s Gold dream builds off his original Dreamstarter® project by expanding, publicizing, and creating a strategic masterplan for his 501c3 organization, Tribal Adaptive Organization. Tribal Adaptive improves the lives of Native Americans with disabilities by addressing misperceptions and barriers to the disabled in Indian Country and encourages healthy, active lifestyles for Native wheelchair users via wheelchair sports clinics and teams.
Fast Facts: Noah earned an athletic scholarship to University of Illinois to play wheelchair basketball. He is also a National Champion Mono-Skier and founder of Tribal Adaptive Thunderbirds, Indian Country’s first Sportschair Basketball team.
Noah Blue Elk Hotchkiss
Southern Ute, Southern Cheyenne, Caddo
Dr. Cristin Haase, DMD, MPH
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe
Fast Facts: Dr. Haase spends much of her free time playing in All-Indian Basketball tournaments and acts as a mentor to American Indian students enrolled at A.T. Still University’s Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health. The Pre-Admissions Dental Workshop (PAW) has been held every year since she first introduced it in 2015.
Riel’s Gold dream is to promote interest in scientific careers and cultivate strong self-identification with Indigenous identities by having his public high school students design project-based solutions to support salmon and orca conservation – two keystone species of the Pacific Northwest, more specifically the Salish Sea.
Fast Facts: Riel’s eventual dream is to have his curriculum adopted on a state-wide level. He also serves as the teacher representative for his district’s Native Family Advisory Council.
Riel LaPlant, MA
Jeremy Dennis, MFA
Shinnecock Indian Nation
Jeremy’s dream is to preserve sacred and historical landscapes surrounding ancestral tribal Shinnecock territory on Long Island, NY using digital photography and story telling. His Gold dream expands on this effort by hosting free workshops for local youth to learn digital photography and historical preservation through digital documentation. He has preserved several local sites from development due to this effort since his original Dreamstarter® grant 2016.
Fast Facts: Jeremy and his work have been featured in The New York Times Art & Design, Yahoo! Lifestyle, The Art Newspaper, Women’s Wear Daily, and many more local and regional news outlets.