The Toy Drive for Pine Ridge is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that collects and delivers toys for children of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, and raises heating fund donations to purchase propane for elder households.
Our fact sheet provides data regarding issues on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
The Toy Drive started in 2003 with Larry Dunn—an Omaha musician also known as Lash LaRue—a friend and a small pick-up truck.
Dunn became aware of the extreme need of the residents after becoming involved on the reservation. The U.S. Census Bureau and BIA list Pine Ridge as the most poverty-stricken area in the United States.
In 2003, Dunn arranged a benefit concert to collect toys for Pine Ridge children. Several of his musician friends agreed to perform at the concert. Approximately $500 in cash was collected, along with a large selection of toys.
The toys were loaded into his friend’s camper pick-up and made the nine-hour trip to the reservation from Omaha. Later, Dunn told of hearing a very small boy say to his mother during the toy giveaway: “See, Mom, I told you Santa wouldn’t forget.”
See, Mom, I told you Santa wouldn’t forget.
Each year has added more concerts and other events, such as radiothons, summer events and concerts outside Omaha. Because of the growth of the Toy Drive, Dunn expanded its reach on Pine Ridge, offering a variety of assistance over the years: providing resources to a medical clinic on the reservation, educational resources for schools, resources for suicide prevention groups and establishing the heating fund.
The Toy Drive currently partners with multiple schools and early childhood centers for the toy giveaways in mid-December, and continues the heating fund each year.
Dunn and the Toy Drive were recognized by the United Way of the Midlands in 2010 at their 55th Annual Volunteer Recognition Luncheon for representing top community spirit and volunteerism in an ethnic population. The Toy Drive has received corporate grants from the eBay/PayPal Foundation, and continues each year because of outstanding community support.
What began as one person’s wish to provide for children growing up in poverty became an official non-profit organization. An organization that so far has relied heavily on community donations and volunteer efforts to assist residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
“If I don’t go back, I don’t know if someone else is going to,” Dunn said. “There was one year a little boy came up just crying his eyes out, and after a while I figured out all he wanted was a ball. I rummaged around and found him a soccer ball and he spent the whole rest of the day with one arm around the soccer ball and the other arm around my leg, just grinning ear to ear.
“And that’s the stuff that keeps you coming back. Just a soccer ball. I have a hundred stories like that.”
And that’s the stuff that keeps you coming back.