BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
TAHLEQUAH - A Chunky demonstration, volleyball, horseshoes and clothing vouchers were all on the agenda during the Keetoowah Strong event held on July 21 at the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians grounds.
“We want our families to get stronger and our traditions to get stronger,” said Richard Vann, the event organizer. “That’s basically why it’s named Keetoowah Strong and why I wanted to have this event. It’s a good cultural day and a good family day all in one.”
Vann said the idea for the event began in the UKB Housing Department before expanding across numerous other departments as a way to reach out to UKB members and the public.
“It’s a good learning opportunity for the public,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know who we are. Some people don’t even know we’re here. It just gets us out into the community a little bit and allows them to see who we are and what we do. We left the Trail of Tears and we’re still strong and still here.”
The day’s activities began at 8 a.m. with a Kids Fishing Derby, naming Maverick Dew and Elias Bluebird winners of the most fish caught with 12 each. Lucas Soap was the winner of biggest fish and all three were awarded tacklebox prizes.
Several other activities began at 10 a.m. including horseshoes and volleyball. First place doubles winners were Dione Byrd and Mitch Smith, while second place was awarded to Mike Cummings and John Grayson. Volleyball team winners were What’s Up? in first and the Kingfishers in second.
The event was also an opportunity for parents to bring their UKB students to collect clothing vouchers for the upcoming school year. Each child also received a free backpack courtesy of the UKB Child Care Development Fund program.
Della Wolfe, education intake specialist, allowed CCDF to use the Education building for the day's activities.
“We’re always striving to do things for our kids and elders and that’s what our constitution is about,” she said. “They can have some fun and yet get some vouchers for their school clothing. We want to help them and it just thrills me when we can do things for our kids.”
Karen Bell brought both of her daughters to the event for clothing vouchers, which could be used to purchase both clothing and school supplies.
“I’m very thankful,” she said. “I think one year we spent $50 just on school supplies. Then I have to buy four of everything because it’s two boxes of crayons, two boxes of this or that. It helps out a whole bunch.”
For UKB students who could not attend the event, vouchers can be obtained by visiting our offices by August 31.
Students age 4-12 will need to visit the Henry Lee Doublehead Child Development Center located at 18771 W. Keetoowah Circle. Students age 13-18 will need to visit the Community Services building located at 18263 W. Keetoowah Circle.
Refreshments and free haircuts were available thanks to the efforts of CCDF Program Manager Kim Gourd, who took the time to call volunteer hairstylists for the event.
Physicals conducted by Florida Atlantic University nurses were also available to students at the event regardless of UKB membership.
Emergency Room Nurse Owen Rogers is an FAU student who also works at Plantation General Hospital in Plantation, Florida. He helped deliver health information to children and said it was his first time visiting with Cherokees.
“This is my first trip out here, so it’s a really cool opportunity to give back to the community and be a part of that,” he said. “We have a philosophy of caring and we really try. We bring it out to you guys and we bring it with our hearts.”
Ramona Griffiths is also an ER nurse that helped educate students at the event. “It’s been an eye opener for me because I’ve lived in Florida my entire life, so being Cherokee isn’t something I know anything about. Now I do,” she said. “I’m an ER nurse so it’s blood and guts constantly, but this is way different, to slow down and actually connect with people on a human level.”
““Keetoowah Strong” just means being proud to be a Keetoowah,” said Vann. “It’s also a good prelude to our 68th annual Keetoowah Celebration in October."