History and Purpose
Running Strong was founded over 20 years ago by the vision of our National Spokesperson, Billy Mills (Oglala Lakota). Billy remains the only American to win an Olympic gold medal in the 10,000 m. In Lakota culture, someone who achieves great success has a 'giveaway' to thank the support system of family and friends who helped him achieve his goal. Part of Billy’s “giveaway” is the hope we bring to Native children here at Running Strong for American Indian Youth.
Today, we work in American Indian communities nationwide to give Native children a chance to follow their dreams.
Running Strong has grown into one of the nation’s most effective American Indian nonprofits, providing direct services and partnering with local leaders to meet community-identified needs. We tackle the toughest challenges in Native communities to give Native children a chance. Among our core areas are:
Youth programs: Too often, American Indian youth face challenges that no child should have to face. Running Strong works to give these kids a place to go—where they can feel safe to learn, grow, and have fun. We build youth centers with volunteer quarters since there is no spare housing, libraries since there are none and internet access since many homes do not have a phone, much less a computer.
Basic Needs: Without food, water, and safe housing, everything else is secondary. Running Strong provides direct assistance to families and communities lacking these essentials. We partner with local leaders so Native children do not go hungry, live without running water, come to school without supplies, or freeze in the Northern Plains winters. We’ve helped kids bring home backpacks full of food so that they don't go hungry on the weekend. We’ve dug nearly 400 water wells for kids so that their parents don’t have to haul water for miles. We donate backpacks full of school supplies so that Native children have the tools they need to succeed in school.
Care for Mother Earth. We teach kids how to plant, grow (and eat!) vegetables in organic children’s and family gardens. We donate new greenhouses to extend the growing season and support local farmers’ and gathers’ markets. We support gardens planted with traditional foods to teach the next generation the foods of their ancestors.
Cultural Touchstones: Running Strong works to preserve American Indian culture, including languages and traditions that are the rightful inheritance of American Indian people but that could die out in this generation. With language and traditional practice, we teach the next generation of American Indian leaders to live with character, dignity, and pride.