A Nobel Laureate, best selling authors, poets, human rights activists and people from as far away as California gathered last Saturday in Greenwich CT, at Westerleigh, the spectacular private residence of Steven and Diana Steinman, to show their support for children living in three of our nation’s poorest counties on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The event was the Inaugural Fundraiser for Lakota Children’s Enrichment (LCE), a nonprofit founded by Scarsdale resident Maggie Dunne to help children living on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Highlights of the evening included an address by Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, the third American woman to ever receive a Nobel Peace Prize, Brandon Steiner (CEO of Steiner Sports), best-selling author Peter Balakian, spoken word performer Jasmine Mans, and LCE Youth Advisory Board Chair, Keith Martinez.
Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, described how she became involved with Lakota Children’s Enrichment last year, when LCE Founder Maggie Dunne approached her at a conference and asked her to judge a writing challenge for youth. Laureate Williams said:
“The reason I am here today is because … Maggie…invited me to come support what she created to help [Lakota youth] know that they mattered -- and that rocks the world!… [A]nything that each and every one of us can do to help her help those severely 3rd world people living in our own country know that they are worth as much as any one of us, please do it. It doesn’t take much to help…
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 the young woman Maggie Dunne decided to do something about it, [to] work with the young people to help them understand that what they think and what they say matters, is very impressive to me, so I agreed to be part of it and I am glad that I am [involved].”
CEO of Steiner Sports, Brandon Steiner, introduced Keith Martinez, a young man from Pine Ridge who is now a Junior at Villanova University, where he is a Gates Millennium Scholar and a Presidential Scholar. Steiner said that he and his wife, Mara, were approached a few years ago about hosting a student from Pine Ridge Reservation through the Scarsdale STEP program, a two year intensive academic program for High School juniors. Steiner said he has watched Keith mature into an amazing person and is proud of his accomplishments.
Keith is the Chair of Lakota Children’s Enrichment’s Youth Advisory Board and has received two national awards for his service with LCE. In 2013 he was named South Dakota’s Youth Service Ambassador by Youth Service America and in 2014 he was named a Champion for Change by the Center for Native American Youth. Keith said he recently met the President of the United States and he had the “exciting and terrifying experience of speaking with Maggie [Dunne] at the United Nations in front of hundreds of people from around the world” and that “none of this would have been possible” without the support of LCE, which provided him with opportunities to engage in service and to celebrate his Lakota heritage and the support of the Steiners, who helped “change the course” of his life.
Scarsdale Rotary Club’s Lynne Wilson, of Wilson and Sons Jewelers, presented Lakota Children’s Enrichment with a check from the Rotary Club in the amount of $3,240. Nobel Laureate Williams immediately personally matched that grant and urged others present to do the same.
Host Steven Steinman welcomed everyone and said about the event, “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.”
Maggie Dunne spoke about the impact LCE's programs have in building confidence and keeping youth in school and said in closing “The Lakota say ‘Mitakuye Oyasin,’ [we are all related]. We are all human beings on this earth --that is the common denominator -- let’s make a difference together.”
Pictured from Left to Right: LCE Founder Maggie Dunne, Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, Jasmine Mans, LCE Director and author Susanne Pari - Photo Credit: Yossera Bouchtia