Excitement was high Dec. 14, 2013, as generators were started and colorfully lit floats got in line for the “Christmas Parade of Lights” thru Wanblee, S.D. In all, there were 15 floats, as well as horses and riders.

The air was crisp as families from the local village and surrounding areas lined the streets of Wanblee watching and waving to cheer on all the participants. Families were then invited to the Kennedy Center where we (members of Families Working Together) had prepared soup, sandwiches, cookies and hot drinks.

Santa and his many elves gave out more than 900 Christmas gifts to children ages, infant to high school. Each Elder present also was presented with a gift bag filled with special presents donated just for them.

More than 1,000 bags of candy, fruit and trail mix were handed out, as well. There were blankets, coats, games and books also given away. It is estimated that more than 650 people attended, including more than 450 children. Each child present was able to receive three gifts.

In the end, there were still gifts to be taken to the village of Corn Creek, a small village near Wanblee and three outlying church groups to give to children that participate in Christmas programs.

It has been reported that if this celebration had not taken place, more than 90 percent of the children in this area would not have had any Christmas presents. We at “Families Working Together” are so grateful for all the contributions that were given to make this event happen.

As the year of 2013 closes, “Families Working Together” would like to say “pilamayaye” (thank you) to all our families, friends and neighbors who have been so supportive to our work on the Pine Ridge Reservation this year.

A special thanks goes to Mary and DeAnna at Edward Jones – DeForest for sponsoring the Christmas toy drive and to those who provided the toys. We also want to thank Jim Nunn for continuing to donate storage units so we have a place to put donated items between trips to the reservation.

We simply could not do any of the things we do without all of YOUR help.

We look forward to 2014 and the ongoing activities we will be sponsoring with a constant hope in our heart that by working together as individuals and organizations, we can help the lives of all people be better.

The Lakota language has a saying, “Mitakuye Oyasin,” the phrase translates as "we are all related," or "all my relations." It is a prayer of oneness and harmony. “Families Working Together” believes this to be true in the sight of God and is committed to working to make this a reality. 

“Families Working Together” is a local DeForest nonprofit organization that focuses on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, with local Indian resident representatives in the Wanblee, S.D. area.

All donations are tax deductible. If you would like to help us financially or another way, please contact Bob Epps or Mary Grimme Epps by phone at (608) 847-6826 or by mail at Families Working Together, P.O. Box 785, DeForest, WI 53532.

Please follow us on Facebook @ fwtwanblee and while you’re there, please consider liking us and forwarding our information to those you know.

Thank you again for your support in the past and in advance for your support during 2014.

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