Lakota Children’s Enrichment held its first fundraiser at Westerleigh, the private residence of Steven and Diana Steinman in Greenwich Connecticut on September 13, 2014. LCE is a volunteer driven nonprofit that empowers Lakota youth living on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Headliners included Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jody Williams, Brandon Steiner (CEO of Steiner Sports), Peter Balakian (poet and best selling author), Jasmine Mans (spoken word activist), LCE President Maggie Dunne and LCE Youth Board Chair Keith Martinez.
Nobel Laureate Jody Williams went to Pine Ridge Reservation in April 2014 to celebrate the voices of Lakota youth, and told the audience that she became involved with LCE when Maggie Dunne approached her at a conference. Williams had been to the Pine Ridge Reservation in the 1970s and knew about the history of injustices there.
Nobel Laureate Williams said of LCE’s efforts to empower youth on the Reservation: “I agreed to be a part of this because I think it is of fundamental importance. I’ve traveled to 75 countries in the world in my lifetime and the degree of poverty and neglect in Pine Ridge is really horrifying. And the fact that … Maggie Dunne decided to do something about it, [to] work with [Lakota youth] to help them understand that what they think and what they say matters, is very impressive to me, so I agreed to part of it and I am glad that I am [involved with LCE].”
Brandon Steiner introduced LCE Youth Board Chair Keith Martinez, from Pine Ridge, who lived with the Steiner family through his last two years of High School as a participant in Scarsdale’s STEP program, an intensive academic booster program. Steiner said he has watched Keith mature and rise to challenges and is very proud of his accomplishments. Keith is a Junior at Villanova University, where he is a Gates Millennium Scholar and a Presidential Scholar.
Keith Martinez provided an overview of his journey:
My freshman class [on the Reservation] started out with more than 150 students, and by the spring of my sophomore year we were down to 45 students….
Seeing all the services that are available to students in New York, made me realize how little we have on Pine Ridge. After school programs, leadership opportunities, enrichment programs, sports, arts, academic support services and community service opportunities — these programs are everywhere– but they are not on the Reservation. LCE fills gaps in services in Pine Ridge and we are providing youth with opportunities that most people present in this room today take for granted…..
Youth on Pine Ridge want to believe in themselves and to ignore negative pressures around them, but when you think that you’re alone, it’s hard to make the choice to stand out as an achiever or activist. LCE provides us with a network of youth from across the reservation who want to be leaders, activists, doctors, scientists, suicide counselors, veterinarians, the tribal president and even the President of the United States….
I have received two national awards for my service work with LCE. This past summer, I met the President of the US, and then I had the exciting and terrifying experience of speaking with Maggie at the United Nations in front of hundreds of people from around the world. None of this would have been possible without the support of LCE, which has given me opportunities to help my community, and to be proud of my heritage, and, of course, the incredible support of the Steiners, who helped change the course of my life.”
Author Peter Balakian stressed the importance of LCE’s work and impact, as evidenced by its annual Writing Challenge and how important it is to advance LCE’s mission. Spoken word performer Jasmine Mans spoke of her experiences on the Reservation in April, how that trip motivated her into action and why the voices of youth on the Reservation should be heard.
Scarsdale Rotary Club’s Lynne Wilson presented Maggie Dunne with a grant in the amount of $3,240.00 and announced that LCE is one of five charities selected by the Scarsdale Rotary Club as a beneficiary of its annual fundraising efforts. Nobel Laureate Jody Williams stepped up to the microphone and offered to personally match the Rotary’s grant, and urged others to do the same.
LCE President Maggie Dunne thanked everyone for their support and said “Mitakuye Oyasin,” in Lakota language means “we are all related” and said “working together we can make a difference.”
All of the expenses of the event were covered by a donor to ensure that all money raised will go to LCE and its programs.
Following the event, host Steven Steinman said “It was our pleasure to host the Inaugural fundraiser for Lakota Children’s Enrichment at our home. Our family is pleased that the event was so successful. LCE is doing important work to help the children on Pine Ridge have the same opportunities as other children in America. We are thrilled to support this amazing organization.”
It is not too late to contribute to our fundraising campaign. Please visit our donation page and make a gift before the end of the year!