Originally published Tuesday, September 10, 2019 at 09:34a.m.

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Running Strong for American Indian Youth and Navajo Hopi Honor Riders joined forces to provide school backpacks and supplies for students this fall.

On Aug. 25, the Honor Riders came together to organize eighty backpacks with school supplies already inside each bag. Running Strong had already purchased the backpacks and it was up to the Honor Riders to disseminate them throughout Native communities for students who needed them.

“Running Strong’s mission is to help American Indian people meet their immediate survival needs — food, water and shelter — while implementing and supporting programs designed to create opportunities for self-sufficiency and self-esteem,” said indianyouth.org’s website.


Kids hold up backpacks they were given by the Navajo Hopi Honor Riders and Running Strong for American Indian youth. (Photo courtesy of the Navajo Hopi Honor Riders)

The Navajo Hopi Honor Riders board decided to divide the backpack giveaway into two Sundays, which allowed families who didn’t get a chance to pick up their backpack on Aug. 18 to make plans to come to the Navajo Nation Fairgrounds in Window Rock Aug. 25. Over 160 backpacks were given away on both days combined.

Honor Riders from Window Rock, St. Michael’s, Ft. Defiance, Crownpoint, Gallup, Lupton, Page and Flagstaff. They all rode their motorcycles to help the students get ready for the new school year.

“The bikers get to do something that they normally don’t do, and that is,participate in giving to the community at large. This also reinforces the Navajo Hopi Honor Riders group as a whole,” stated Doug Clark from St. Michael’s, Arizona.

Bobby Martin, NHHR president, initiated the contact with Running Strong for American Indian Youth 4 years ago. NHHR applied for a grant to help students in the fall semester, a turkey giveaway for Thanksgiving and the holiday roasts and toys for families in need around the Christmas season.

“It’s always a humbling moment to see the expression of a chei, masani or parents in need, as we hand over a turkey and not ask for anything in return. It has been an amazing experience to be a part of what Running Strong does for Native communities,” Martin said.

Sunday morning, there were countless parents and grandparents who were thankful — hugging all the honor riders, expressing their gratitude by shaking the hands of volunteers — that was well worth the time and effort for NHHR volunteers.

“The school supply give away was a success,” Navajo Hopi Honor Rider, Marita Smith from Window Rock said. “We gave them support for their education. They were so thankful and shook hands with all the riders. We try to help when we get time in between our work schedule.”

Smith expressed her dedication in helping all veterans and she hopes that the partnership between Running Strong and NHHR will continue to help those in need in years to come.

Honorable Navajo Nation Vice President, Myron Lizer volunteered his time to help Navajo Hopi Honor Riders get the backpacks out to the students Aug. 18. Also, honorable council delegate, Charlaine Tso ( Mexican Water, Aneth, Teec Nos Pos, Tołikan, Red Mesa) donated school supplies in addition to volunteering her time to help local families in need.

It has been recorded that Navajo Nation has nearly a 38 percent poverty rate compared to the state of Arizona, which is at 15 percent, with approximately 101,800 tribal members living on the reservation. The observation is that a majority of families have a very low, yearly income, approximately $12,000 - $15,000.

With the help of Running Strong for American Indian Youth and volunteers from Navajo Hopi Honor Riders, the organizations hope to help the students get a good start by providing them with basic tools and also encouraging them. The honor riders said it was good to talk with the students and find out what their favorite subject is, favorite sport and clubs they are involved in.

Navajo Hopi Honor Riders board members; Bobby Martin, Leon Curley, Adolph Soliz Sr, Geri Hongeva and Fred Begay expressed their appreciation to every volunteer who helped with the backpack giveaway.

“From the ladies who brought food, water, ice and watermelon, to the riders who traveled to Window Rock to make this happen for our vibrant students, our youth, our next generation. Ahéhee',” they said.

More information about the Navajo Hopi Honor Riders, non-profit organization, is available by visiting: www.NavajoHopiHonorRiders.com.

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