Impacting Youth On Both Sides – A Supporter's Story

John Selvaggio has been supporting ONE Spirit for many years. A New York City resident and entrepreneur, his hot dog truck counter always sported a donation cup. Now retired, he spends his time collecting baseball equipment for youth on Pine Ridge reservation, and makes an annual donation. His selflessness helps provide young people on the reservation with a desperately needed outlet for recreation. He recently made his annual donation in person, and brought his family's exchange student along. He shares his beautiful story with us here:

On their way in, they stopped the family RV in Manderson, for water and directions to the Safe House run by the Jumping Eagles. As they were waiting, a man approached and said hello. It was Billy Jumping Eagle, who had already heard John was in town. "I guess that old Indian telegraph still works." John laughed. They followed him to their first stop, where they dropped off half of their equipment, along with some prom dresses that had been donated.

Donated sports gear in front of house

"The trip was an outstanding success. Nico (our 19 year old exchange student) experienced an eye opening trip into a world few get to explore."

Their next stop was to be Bamm Brewer, but he was away performing a ceremony. John contacted a friend who plays on his softball team, and she directed them to his garage where they dropped the softball goods off. From there, they met with Dale Pine, who would handle the remainder of the baseball equipment.

"Dale was so nice. He accepted all we had left (which was still a ton of stuff) and he made phone calls to 10 coaches from 5 towns (Manderson, Red Shirt, Pine Ridge, Kyle, and one more) and they all came to grab stuff. In all, there were 110 bats, 125 mitts, 4 sets of bases, 10 sets of catcher's protective gear, dozens of pairs of spikes and sneakers, clothing, jackets, uniforms, 50 batting helmets, and well over 300 baseballs and 150 softballs. Many items were new. It was uncanny how all the stuff came from so many different people and places, yet in total there was neither shortage nor excess of any one thing."

A dream is realizedSunset
John was moved by the friendliness he and his family encountered next. "Dale asked where we were heading next, and we told him we were going to visit friends in Red Shirt. He offered to lead the way by car. We followed him to his house in Red Shirt. We plugged in our camper, but Nico slept inside and we all used the shower while we were around. Here was a total stranger opening his home to us! I then realized 6 years ago while visiting our Red Shirt friends, we went to view the distant Badlands on this exact property, when it was for sale and empty. I had told Linda that my dream would be to live right there and watch the sun set over the Black Hills and then rise again over the Badlands. Suddenly my dream came true. Dale bought that exact piece of land I loved and built a house there. What are the odds? We sat each night and watched the sun set over the hills, and the stars put on their light show. I woke early enough to see only one sunrise but it was equally spectacular.

Crazy Horse MonumentNext day we went to visit the Crazy Horse monument. It was so much fun seeing old places through a new set of eyes. People are so friendly and sincere out there. We saw a large group of riders with horses camping about a mile down the road from our campsite, so we pulled in to see who was there. Immediately I saw many red ONE Spirit Crazy Horse Ride shirtson some of the kids and adults and knew the magic was once again in full effect. It turns out this was a Veteran's Memorial Ride led by Marvin Goings and the Slim Buttes Riders, but many of the riders also were on the Crazy Horse ride it seems. They welcomed us into their group and asked Nico if he wanted to ride a horse. He said he never tried, so one kid showed him how to grab the horse's mane with one hand and to leap on the horse's back with only a blanket. Within minutes, Nico was riding really fast with no help at all. They graciously accepted our donations and invited us to join them the next day when they went back to Crazy Horse for a 4th of July event.

Making valuable friendships

The following day, they met up with Dale again, who introduced the rest of his family, including his daughter Cassara and son Alex, who is a former state champion runner, and part of Team ONE Spirit, who will return to the NYC marathon again this year. "Alex and Nico became instant close friends and I think Alex will be his friend for life. Nico and Alex spent a day racing on horseback for miles and miles while Dale took us to the museum and school at Red Cloud. This was the 3rd day in a row that Nico said was the best day of his life." Nico also had the opportunity to visit and speak with a local elder and his family.

Trailride
John and his family finally met up with Bamm, and spent time with his family, riding horseback through the countryside and taking photos of buffalo which roam on Bamm's property. "He entertained us with stories of his family's history and plans for the future. It was a great day." Later, John heard something alarming, and made a startling realization:

"Listening to KILI radio brought home one important point that your ONE Spirit members should hear. They made announcements on air stating thatthe tribe is under severe financial hardships and starting July 1st, no one should even think of contacting the tribe for any type of financial assistance the first 2 weeks of each month except in the case of extreme medical emergency or death. No exceptions. This drives home the point that ONE Spirit is needed more than ever, and everyone who can should dig a little deeper. When you see people selling their cheese allotments on the street to buy a little gas it is unimaginably sad. I cannot imagine what desperation winter's cold brings on."

John is correct. The effects of sequestration have caused a massive restriction of funding, which is creating a serious financial crisis on the reservation. A few weeks ago, the Aspen Institute released this report detailing the crisis: Sequestration: The Impact On The Most At-Risk Population: Native Youth. More than ever during this time, Lakota families will need to rely on sources of assistance outside the tribal system, which is already overburdened. You can help. By sponsoring an individual family, providing goods, or making a recurring or one-time donation, you can assist at this critical time. Click here to find out how. Have a creative idea like John's? This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and we can help you get started.

Read the recent article about this problem, published on July 23rd in NYTimes: http://nyti.ms/16YbNPO