Packaged With Care: The Report of our "Fill A Backpack" Drive

On a recent trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, I had the honor of distributing the backpacks, toys and school supplies that were donated to our recent “Fill A Backpack” drive. I want to extend a big “thank you” to all who contributed, shipped and/or cheered us on. Your collective efforts have touched the lives of hundreds of Oglala Lakota children.

Prior to my trip, a representative from the Crazy Horse School called to ask if we could do something to lift his student’s spirits. That phone call inspired both my “Siouxicide” essay (in our Facebook Notes Section and our blog), and LPRCEP’s First Annual “Fill a Backpack” drive. So, of course, the Crazy Horse School in Wanblee was one of our primary distribution destinations for the personal delivery of our care packages! Additional packages of supplies and books were shipped before our arrival to the Crazy Horse School, the Wanblee Day Care Center and the Wanblee Head Start facility, locations we have shipped to in the past and who we knew needed our help.

But, because the donations were so voluminous, there was more than enough to go around! We also delivered additional care packages to Wanblee Head Start, Rockyford School, Our Lady of Lords, Porcupine Headstart, Cohen Home and a home for war Veterans!

It was incredibly gratifying to deliver the packages to children and teens, and also to see the welcome reception from the teachers, who work so hard to keep the children in school. The generous response from our contributors demonstrated to the Lakota that people outside their community care enough to assemble care packages filled with items that were good enough to keep; in fact, about 30% of the donations were brand new. It was apparent to everyone, that a lot of care had gone into producing so many wonderful packages.

One final shipment was sent last week, to provide a community Easter Egg hunt in Wanblee, one of the more challenged areas of the Rez. We added 360 plastic Easter eggs to the shipment for the staff to “hide” and the children will select our gift items as prizes. This particular shipment included some “grand prizes” of lego sets, books, and backpacks stocked with toys, soccer balls and school supplies. Our friend Stephana Standing Bear at the Wanblee CAP will run the egg hunt.

The only disappointment was that time constraints and knee-deep muddy roads prevented us from delivering our packages to Jeda and Stryker (the two children displayed in many of our materials) and to Pat, who had requested a care package for her developmentally delayed adult daughter. Ted, from Re-Member, has agreed to deliver their care packages for us when the roads clear. As they say, “just another day on the Rez” – due to the extreme actions of Mother Nature you never know exactly what you will or will not be able to accomplish!

Special thanks go to the Scarsdale Inquirer, The Scarsdale Congregational Church, Scarsdale High School’s Reservation Aid Club and The Hitchcock Church, who together with Scarsdale and the surrounding community donated over 1200 pounds of aid for children. Thanks also to the countless people who forwarded emails, flyers and Facebook notices of the drive to book publishers and others who, in turn, assembled packages, donated books or sent money to help defray shipping costs. Most notably, someone reached out to Scholastic Books, which responded with a huge selection of books for children of all ages.

Then, there are our Facebook fans! Some shipped directly to preschools and a day care center, others directly to schools and others shipped to our destination so that we could deliver them. We had team members from all over the USA, as well as the UK and Ireland sending aid to Lakota children!

Finally, a huge thanks to Re-Member, our hosts for the week, who partnered with us by collecting the donations, storing them until our arrival and then shuttled us around to make deliveries. I urge any of you all who do not live on the Rez to consider devoting a week to work with Re-Member (link in our “Favorites” box). There, you live on the Rez, learn about the wonderful Lakota culture and meet tribal members. During the days you work hard improving the quality of life for Lakota residents and at night you sleep in triple bunk beds. At the end of the week you depart knowing that you improved the lives of many and even more charged to become part of the solution.

Although many of us cannot stand in the shoes of the Oglala Lakota, the incredibly strong survivors of a series of historical and continuing injustices, we can stand beside them and help them to build a better future; and, and we can provide them with aid. Stay tuned for our upcoming projects including a Reservation-wide Fall coat, boot and toy drive and an awareness petition.

Please continue to spread the word, consider suggesting our Page to your friends, and get ready to stand up and be counted as a supporter of the Oglala Lakota!

Peace…. 😀

Maggie Dunne
Founder, LPRCEP, Ltd.

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