PARSHALL Mark Fox has raised thousands of dollars to help youth programs on the Fort Berthold Reservation by doing an annual benefit swim across Lake Sakaka-wea. He started the benefit swims in 2006.
This year his benefit swim across the lake, done on Sept. 5, also will help with the start of a new organization that he has formed, Red Sage Organization. Fox, who is its director, said the group was established this year to help with social and economic needs on the reservation. By having their own organization, he said they can expand on their capabilities and do much more to help a wider range of people on the reservation.
Currently, Red Sage is working on obtaining its nonprofit entity status and some of the money raised in the recent benefit swim will help with that effort, Fox said.
Fox also is executive director of gaming at the 4 Bears Casino & Lodge west of New Town.
Proceeds of Fox's past benefit swims mainly have gone toward youth causes on the reservation. He said Red Sage will not be limited to youth. "Primarily, it's for youth, but there will be a number of other things. We're going to look at growing our own food on the reservation and start people doing gardening." He said that can be expanded to farm land on the reservation and also getting nontribal members involved in the food-growing process.
"By growing healthy food it will start opening the door to more self-assistance," he added.
Fox said that last year around $5,000 raised by his benefit swim went to help with a skate board park in New Town, for free ice skates for kids in Parshall, the Mothers Against Drunk Driving group, the Sahnish Corn Festival at White Shield and the Smokey Myrick Running Club of Parshall.
He said some money from last year's swim was saved to put in a fund to build a recreation facility in Parshall. The fund currently has between $5,000 and $6,000 in it but $150,000-plus is needed. A site has not been selected for the building but Fox said there is enough money now to start work on architectural and engineering plans. He said he sees the building as a place for a range of uses from boxing to birthday parties.
Much of Fox's fundraising has been to help youth-related projects. "Anything to help out kids, from anti-meth campaigns to sending them to cross-country...," he said.
He figures his recent benefit swim, from which pledges are still being collected, will total more than $11,000. On that Saturday earlier this month, he swam seven lengths of the Four Bears Bridge west of New Town about 6 1/2 miles. For the last part of the swim he also swam to the marina, which is near the bridge.
Once the pledges for the benefit swim are in, between now and October, where the money will go to will be determined, he said.
Fox isn't sure how long he can keep doing benefit swims. He said the swim isn't the hard part but getting his body into shape starting months before takes a lot of commitment. He said they'll need to come up with other ways to raise money too.
Fox said the main thing right now is to get the nonprofit status for Red Sage. Once that is in place he said they expect to do more fundraising campaign and other projects. He said plans also are to have a Web site.
He said that next month plans are to hold an appreciation event to thank all the businesses, organizations and individuals who have helped with the recent benefit swim. At that time they will announce what programs will be supported through the recent benefit.
He said there are a lot of needs on Fort Berthold Reservation and the main goals for Red Sage are "reaching out to people do things positive for kids to grownups."
For more information about Red Sage or to make a contribution contact: Red Sage, c/o Mark Fox, 107-1st St. NE, Parshall, ND 58770.