When the Running Strong for American Indian Youth® team told their National Spokesperson, Billy Mills,  they wanted to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his Olympic victory by giving away grants every year for the next five years, he knew he wanted to help Native youth pursue their own dreams for themselves and their communities. So together they created Dreamstarter™– to give Native youth the funds and training they need to make these dreams come true.

In April, Billy got to meet with the Dreamstarters at the first ever Dreamstarter Academy. He was incredibly impressed by their stories and their passion, and is looking forward to working with each Dreamstarter over the next year, helping them all grow into leaders, and watching their dreams come to life.

When you read their stories, we know you’ll be as inspired by their Dreamstarters as we are.

The first class of Dreamstarters includes:

  • Ronnie, a high school student building a weight room to help his rural community get healthy
  • Samantha, who is providing Native youth with a safe place to cope with grief and loss
  • James, a runner from Pine Ridge hosting running camps for youth in every district of his widespread reservation
  • and more!

Nothing makes us happier than the knowledge that, together, we can help these amazing young people pursue their dreams and better their communities.

Click here to read about their dreams, and then see photos of  from the Dreamstarter Academy.

donate nowYou may be aware that the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is home to the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Tribe in South Dakota. What you may not know is that the unemployment rate on Pine Ridge is 70%, and the average household annual income is only $3,800.

Emergency HeatWinters on the Great Plains can be extremely harsh— actual sub-zero temperatures for days at a time with the wind chill even much lower — and those frigid temperatures make life very dangerous, particularly for children and the elderly, especially when there is no money to pay for the propane truck to fill up their tank.

In our mission to provide a “hand up,” not a handout, our emergency Heat Match program matches, dollar for dollar, to help ensure families have electricity and propane to protect them from the bitter cold.

We still need your help.

Every year since 1997, we have helped thousands of Oglala families to be able to provide life-saving warmth for their children and themselves, and with your help we can again this year.  The time is now to make your contribution.

Providing Turkeys

Ever since the first Thanksgiving Day, newcomers and American Indians depended on each other for survival.

The Pilgrims would never have made it through that first winter without the friendship of American Indians.

Yet here we are in 2014 and this coming Thanksgiving Day will be one of great hardship, not celebration, for many Indian children and their families on reservations across the country.

Now you have the chance to help Indian children with THEIR survival.

donate nowPlease help make this the best Thanksgiving for our friends on the Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservations in South Dakota.

Too many Indians have not shared in the American dream of better lives for each generation.

During a recent distribution of food boxes on Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation, Billie Rose – our on-site Program Coordinator commented:

“I know how much these food boxes help the families here. I used to be a single mother of eight waiting in line to receive one for my family. So I know how you have helped. Now I get to distribute the food and it is my pleasure! I’m so thankful that we have volunteer that will take the food to the outlying communities – it is so important to so many that cannot come here to receive the food box. For example, there is a family of two adults and 11 children living in a 3 bedroom double-wide trailer. The mother is disabled and the dad has a hard time finding work as they have no vehicle.

Most children attend Takini School and participate in Christian Relief Services’ backpack food program [through its project Running Strong for American Indian Youth®]. The family appreciates the food very much, both the backpack food and the food boxes. The food boxes come at the end of the month, the hardest time for these families and it is full of really healthy food!”

We have a goal of providing 752 turkeys to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and 752 to the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation. That’s 1,504 turkeys that we must begin to plan for now in order to meet the Thanksgiving deadline!

School Supplies
Providing School Supplies in Appalachia. PLEASE HELP

Providing School Supplies in Appalachia through our project Americans Helping Americans in Appalachia. PLEASE HELP

Believe it or not, the school year will begin soon and reservation children face incredible challenges just preparing for the start of school.

Notebooks, pens, pencils, other school supplies and hygiene items are expensive and reservation families must drive long distances to buy them. Few can afford the gas or the school supplies themselves.

In addition to needing school supplies, children from these economically depressed areas are in desperate need of new clothes, shoes, socks, coats…etc.

“I will never forget the shame I felt as a little sixth grade boy having to wear my sister’s blouse to school because we just didn’t have one more piece of boys’ clothing for me. Imagine the embarrassment a little guy would endure wearing a girl’s shirt to the first day of school.”  – Billy Mills, Olympic Gold Medalist and National Spokesperson, Running Strong for American Indian Youth®


Providing School Supplies to Children on Indian Reservations. PLEASE HELP TODAY!

Providing School Supplies to Children on Indian Reservations through our project Running Strong for American Indian Youth. PLEASE HELP TODAY!

Please help make the 2014-15 school year a happy time, a time to learn and grow. Please provide children with the “tools” they need to help them with their lessons. 

“Not having basic school supplies, warm clothing, and hygiene items adds to the cycle of desperation and lack of self-esteem these children suffer each day.”

Our goal is to be able to provide over 5,000 school supply kits to elementary school students and over 3,000 school supply kits to Jr. High students. Our dedicated local staff and volunteers will lovingly distribute backpacks filled with school supplies just before school starts. But in order to meet our goal, we need your help!

Remember, these school supply kits and winter coats are visual reminders each day to these special kids that someone cares.

$9.22 provides an Elementary School child a new backpack filled with:

200 Ct. Filler Paper
24 Color Premium Crayons
Pencil Sharpener
12″ Plastic Ruler (English and Metric)
1 Glue Stick
1 Pair 5″ Blunt Tip Scissors
1 70 Ct. Spiral Notebook
2 Black Pens
#2 Pencils – 12 pack

$16.29 provides a Jr. High or High School student with a new 18″ backpack is filled with:

300 Ct. Filler Paper
12 Colored Pencils
Pencil Sharpener
12″ Plastic Ruler (English and Metric)
2 Yellow Highlighters
#2 Pencils – 12 Pack
3 Ring Pencil Pouch
2 70 Ct. Spiral Notebooks
2 pocket portfolio folders
8 Digit Pocket Size Calculator w/ Flip Cover
Semi-circle 6″ Protractor
2 Yellow Highlighters

In June, 800 families living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota received dry food boxes from our project Running Strong for American Indian Youth®! Usually we send frozen food boxes, but in the hot summer months it is difficult to unload the frozen boxes before they melt in the South Dakota sun. To solve this problem we are trying out the dry boxes this summer.

If they are successful, we are hoping to send more food boxes like them in August, with your support! Every box includes nutritious foods to feed one family, like spaghetti and meatballs, cooking oil, rice, and dry beans.

Backpack Food Programs

backpacksAs we approach the school year, children living on reservations face rumbling bellies that can interfere with their education.Children attending the Takini School on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation face 30 mile bus rides to and from school and 3-day weekends (the Takini School has a four-day school week) without enough provisions to last each meal, much less any snacks.These rural communities stretching on the miles of reservation in Ziebach County, Wyoming sadly boasts the highest child poverty rate in the United States.

Without your support and the backpack food program supported by Christian Relief Services, these impoverished children would face no reprieve on the weekends or long bus rides from their hunger pangs.School is such a gift – and truly a necessity in the world today – but how can children study if they are distracted by their empty tummies?To keep these children fed and healthy, it only takes a small gift – or a commitment to supporting a child through our Running Strong for American Indian Youth® program all year round by becoming a monthly giver online through our secure server.

Stories like Nadine’s (told below) are not unique – they are the tragic stories of communities embedded in cycles of harsh poverty with no accessible stores or resources to help them.Except for Christian Relief Service’s backpack food program.

My name is Nadine.I’m the parent of six children who are enrolled at Takini School from kindergarten to the sophomore class.Since its inception, the backpack program has really helped a lot of us parents in providing snacks for our kids.A lot of us are low income, considered poverty-level.For me as a parent trying to make my food dollars stretch, it’s pretty tough.The kids really do watch their backpacks and keep an eye on each other’s stuff.Mostly it’s nutritious for them too and they can heat up things in the microwave.It’s really helped me as a parent because I’ve had hard times living out here in a rural area.Our nearest store is 27-30 miles away, just to go there for a loaf of bread and peanut butter and jelly is really a trip—almost40 dollars in gas.For these kids to take this stuff home on weekends really helps.I know a lot of the kids depend on the program and they look forward to it.It’s something that they cherish because some of them drive from here to Eagle Butte to get home.On that bus ride home I know they are hungry and tired.This backpack helps us make due for our kids.It has really helped the families a lot.We really are grateful.I know a lot of parents are.It’s a gift for us because we have it hard you know, so thank you very much. – Takini School Mother

Toys for Tribes

Every year Running Strong strives to bring comfort and joy to Native families on reservations. Thanks to your generosity, we were able to make the holidays very special for thousands of American Indian children. The 2013 Toys for Tribes program was an even bigger success than in 2012. Thanks to your support, Running Strong was able to provide 2,400 toys to about 2,000  American Indian youngsters on the Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge reservations this past Christmas! Thank you for helping us spread joy to these little boys and girls.

You Helped Us Provide:

❆ 1,500 food boxes
❆ 1,950 blankets
❆ 5,500 coats with hoods
❆ 2,675 hats
❆ 2,675 scarves
❆ 2,675 hats