Indianz.Com > COVID-19 > Cheyenne River Youth Project (South Dakota)
Posted: September 25, 2020

Staff members harvested Brussels sprouts in the 3-acre Winyan Toka Win Garden, which has produced nearly 10,000 pounds of food to date — with squash and watermelons still in the field. Photo courtesy Cheyenne River Youth Project

CRYP Partners with Vadon Foundation for Covid-19 Relief


EAGLE BUTTE, SD (Sept. 25, 2020) — The Cheyenne River Youth Project and the Seattle-based Vadon Foundation have announced a new partnership that will allow the nonprofit, grassroots youth organization to raise funds for Covid-19 relief. The Vadon Foundation is providing a $20,000 matching grant, and today, CRYP kicked off its 2020 Covid-19 Relief Fundraising Drive to raise the necessary matching funds.

Funds will be raised through a new GoFundMe campaign, and through a “Covid-19 Relief Fund” option on the CRYP website’s donation page; the fundraising drive will run through the end of the year. Executive Director Julie Garreau said the grant and matching funds will be critical as she and her team continue youth programming and family services through the winter and early spring months.

“My staff is working very hard every day to make sure we stay connected to our kids,” she explained. “Daily life is always challenging on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, and the pandemic has made that life even harder. Our kids have lost so much, and they are relying on us to be here for them. When the pandemic hit, we never closed our doors — instead, we got creative and searched for new ways to meet their needs, from delivering well-balanced meals and school supplies to providing classes, workshops, and even our teen internships.

“Our small staff is doing all of this largely without the volunteer support that has been part of CRYP for more than 30 years,” she continued. “We’re deeply grateful to the Vadon Foundation for supporting us as we continue to navigate this continually evolving situation while ensuring that our kids still have access to us and to the opportunities they need.”


Cheyenne River Youth Project Family Services members line up for the youth project’s curbside distribution of food, household items, and school supplies earlier this month. Photo courtesy Cheyenne River Youth Project

According to Dave LaSarte-Meeks, the Vadon Foundation’s executive director, CRYP proved to be an ideal candidate for partnership. He noted that the foundation looks for organizations that have proactive and effective leadership, are community-based and grassroots, and create positive, long-term impact for current and future generations.

“In an ideal world, we also look for programs whose success can provide a blueprint or roadmap for other Native communities and programs to follow, so their success can be more easily replicated and have an even bigger impact,” LaSarte-Meeks explained. “CRYP is in many ways an ideal candidate for partnership. Julie is a proactive and enterprising leader who has grown the organization from a very small program to one that is a national model. CRYP hasn’t been afraid to try new and innovative programming, even when it seems risky. And, it is based and grounded in the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe community.”

As he noted, when the Covid-19 pandemic erupted six months ago, CRYP adapted and shifted to meet the needs of the community and its youth while also taking every precaution to keep them as safe as possible. While certain programs were suspended, Garreau and her team quickly shifted gears to focus on what was possible: providing daily sack meals for youth, with more than 5,000 individual meals distributed from March to August; offering takeout service at the Keya (Turtle) Cafe; planting the 3-acre Winyan Toka Win (Leading Lady) Garden, and harvesting nearly 10,000 pounds of produce by September; and connecting families with food, diapers, clothing, school supplies and other necessary household items through curbside Family Services distributions.


A new learning hub hosted face mask sewing classes for local youth. Photo Cheyenne River Youth Project

The CRYP team also added a high-speed Internet line and transformed the full-size gymnasium into a socially distant learning center. They provided Chromebooks for youth use, set up distanced work stations, sourced large amounts of masks and hand sanitizer, and recruited local and remote instructors. Not only were they able to continue their teen internship program and graduate their first two Lakota Art Fellows, they have given local youth many precious opportunities to attend classes, workshops, and art camps.

And, while the CRYP staff initially thought they might have to cancel their annual RedCan invitational graffiti jam, they instead found a way to take the award-winning event online. RedCan 2020 broadcast live from eight cities over the course of four action-packed days, reaching and inspiring many thousands of people across the country and even overseas.

“Rather than wait for someone else to react, they just got things done,” LaSarte-Meeks said. “It makes it very easy to support an organization when you know they are active problem-solvers and don’t need months to formulate a plan in crisis. We are very happy and proud to support CRYP.”


Youth participate in an “Expressive Mixed Media” workshop with local artist Tammy Granados in CRYP’s transformed gymnasium, now a socially distanced learning center. Photo courtesy Cheyenne River Youth Project

To support CRYP’s Covid-19 Relief GoFundMe campaign, visit You also can visit, and select “Covid-19 Relief Fund.”

To learn more about the Cheyenne River Youth Project and its programs, call (605) 964-8200 or visit And, to stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook (/LakotaYouth), Twitter (@LakotaYouth) and Instagram (@lakotayouth and @waniyetuwowapi).

The Cheyenne River Youth Project, founded in 1988, is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a wide variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities that ensure strong, self-sufficient families and communities.

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