In Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the forecast is calling for a “wintry mix” with low temperatures in the low 20s next week.

But thanks to the supporters of Running Strong for American Indian Youth® 500 children and adults are prepared to withstand the coming frigid weather, next week and all winter long.

“We were able to give coats and boots to kids who needed them in our community,” reported Marisa Hambleton of our partner there, the Cherokee Nation Foundation, following a distribution event on November 22 of winter coats, hats, gloves and scarves, and sturdy snow boots.

Among the grateful recipients was a mother of six who told Marisa “Thank you so much! I make my kids wear hand-me-downs until they are worn out. With your help, they all have nice coats and boots to wear.”

Marisa also recounted the story of a 6th grade boy who had very little in clothes, often wearing the same pair of jeans many days in a row.

“One the first day the weather turned cold this November, he wore a jacket that was too small, but after that he chose not to wear it,” reported Marisa. “I’m sure another student had something to say about the size.

“Then the coats arrived and we were able to give him a BRAND NEW, NICE, black coat.

“His first words were: ‘I can’t pay for this.’ to which we reassured him that it was free.

“Then he hugged us and said, ‘I never get anything new!’

“We have been working on getting him some new clothes for Christmas to go with that new coat!”

Alicia O’Donnell is superintendent of the Catoosa Public Schools system and she knows from first hand experience that students cannot even begin to learn until their personal needs are met first.

girls in coats

“This program allows us to make sure our students have a coat, boots, gloves, hats and scarves and that they are warm when traveling to and from school, during recess and when changing classes,” she said. “This program meets needs and works in conjunction with our clothes closet and food pantry to make sure our students are prepared to learn.

And to the supporters of Running Strong who make this program possible Ms. O’Donnell has these words:

“Your donation is a needed and very much appreciated piece of helping to meet the needs of our students! As a bonus, we love getting to see all the smiles and excitement when our students put on their new coats and boots for the very first time!”

As we do with all our partners, we asked Marisa to please list any other items your community needs. And while we are sure there are many, she understands there are many Native communities throughout Indian Country who also have needs, so she requested nothing more.

“Running Strong meets so many needs in our community already!”

girl in snow boots
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