This past week I had an amazing opportunity to visit Fort Peck with LHNC for the Christmas on The Reservation event. Going into this trip I had no idea what to expect, but I quickly learned I was in for an experience that will last a lifetime.
For those unfamiliar with Fort Peck, it is located in Poplar, MT. Prior to this trip I had never traveled to Montana before, and had no idea what it may be like. Having grown up in the outskirts of Boston, MA, I was definitely in for a shock. As we were driving to the reservation I was taken aback by how flat the land was. There was one highway, Route 2, and that was the only road you needed to know to get anywhere. I remember finding it odd that the only billboard for miles displayed the message “Don’t do meth even once.” Living in suburbia I am definitely used to seeing massive amounts of billboards that try to sell me things, but not try and suede the reader away from drug usage. This was such a culture shock for me.
We woke up the next day to begin our “elf” duties, distributing presents and food to all the schools in Poplar. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. All the kids were called down classroom by classroom and you could feel the excitement in the room; they had been anxiously anticipating this day! The joy these kids expressed was infectious. At one point in the day, I was sitting next to a little boy who after opening his present and realizing what it was, hugged his gift and exclaimed that this was the best day of his life! I couldn’t stop smiling when he said that. It was amazing to me how grateful these kids were for a few toys and some food. Having worked at my local YMCA for 6 years, I was used to kids who would put up a fit if they didn’t receive the newest play station they asked for.
Along with the presents, we also passed out some coats and boots to the teachers so they could give them to the students who needed them the most. One teacher came up to me after we handed the coat to the little boy and said, “We are already so thankful for the presents because for some of these kids, this is the only presents they will receive. But the coats and boots we can’t thank you enough for.” I thought to myself how absurd it was to be thanked for such a necessity like boots and a coat when these kids experience conditions as harsh as -24 degrees - that’s just something they should automatically get. But unfortunately, that isn't the case for these little kids. They are considered lucky if they have the necessities.
I can’t even explain how much this trip meant to me and how grateful I am to have been a part of it. Thank you to everyone who has donated to this awesome cause, you really don't know how much of a difference you are truly making. I am looking forward to Bootcamp to be reunited with the children on the Res!