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Simply Smiles provides bright futures for children, families, and communities. The organization partners with populations in need to create physical and emotional environments where suffering is alleviated and from which local leaders can emerge.

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The #bigredbus Arrives in La Plant

Timothy Nurnberger

Hello, loyal bloggers! Today I'm writing to you from the Rapid City airport, waiting on my flight back to Connecticut. Unfortunately, today I head back to CT for two weeks to take care of some general office work before going back to La Plant and the Cheyenne River Sioux Valley Reservation. We arrived in La Plant on Monday afternoon and it has been a heck of a few days. The first thing we did upon arrival was look at the area. As this was my first time on the Reservation, I needed a pretty in-depth tour. The landscape of La Plant is pretty spectacular: rolling fields as far as the eye can see, dotted by the occasional house, barn, and herd of cattle. As soon as we crossed the Missouri River, which is the dividing line between the Reservation and South Dakota proper, we stopped for a quick dip in the river and a discussion of what the week would have in store for us. Over an hour of driving later, we arrived at the community center in La Plant to begin our tremendous summer.

We arrived and were quickly greeted by some of our friends. When we went up to town to get a key for our water spigot, about 15 kids ran out of their houses to meet us. With permission, they climbed into the back of the truck to come back to the community center with us - a huge change in their relationship with us since last summer, when we struggled for trust with the children at camp. They laughed and climbed into the truck, all yelling with excitement, as we drove back to the center with some strong helping hands.

The first major task at hand was to unload the bus, and this was not a small job. It took the five of us (Bryan, Josh, Haley, Gaby, and Christiana) plus about 15 helpful kids several hours to unload all of the awesome donations. The kids, of course, took periodic breaks to play with the water squirters (to the great dismay of Chip and Maddie... and Josh) and to ask, "What's in this box? What's in here?" They're really pumped for all of the summer camp stuff, and all of the clothing and blanket donations we put in storage to be given out at Christmas and other exciting times of the year.

The kids absolutely LOVE the bus as well. As soon as they came to visit us, they were jumping on it, playing with the door, and running up and down the aisles. Unfortunately, that curious nature quickly led them to the horn, which honked ceaselessly for about an hour. To bring them home that night, Bryan explained the rules of the bus and gave the kids their first ride on the #bigredbus. They all listened to the rules, and kept asking when camp was going to start so that they could be picked up again. Looks like Operation Big Red Bus was a success!



Yesterday was spent readying the community center for our first set of volunteers - East Haddam Congregational Church, who arrive on Saturday. We cleaned the building from top to bottom, emptied out an old storage room that was stacked floor-to-ceiling with old boxes and mouse nests, and mowed and weed whacked the lawn. We also went to measure for the first construction project of the summer: roofing! An inventory was made of all of our food and supplies and today, while I sit in airports, Bryan, Josh, Christiana, and Gaby will be on a huge shopping trip for food, construction materials, and, of course, dog food. We also picked up our other truck and trailer to haul everything that gets bought today back to the Reservation.

As you can see, we've been busy over here! We're really excited to get started with the first round of volunteers; we have a lot of really awesome stuff in store. Building projects, summer camps, THREE community meals a week plus a movie night - things are all falling into place for the summer of the #bigredbus.

Have a great week, everyone! I'm looking forward to getting back to the Reservation the first week of July. Until then, keep looking for updates on the first two groups and be sure to look for pictures on our Facebook page!

Your loyal blogger,