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West High student using school project to collect donations for homeless teens

Merry Grinchmas
Posted at 8:46 PM, Dec 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-11 11:44:06-05

BILLINGS - West High junior Colby Reichenbach is collecting donations for homeless teens this holiday season as part of a school project.

The project is the final requirement for Reichenbach to be a part of the platinum program, which means he has taken all honors and AP courses throughout high school, as well as completing a community-wide project.

"My platinum project is just basically trying to help make Christmas a little brighter for the less fortunate kids in our community," Reichenbach said Sunday afternoon.

Reichenbach said that the motivation behind his project actually came from a unique family tradition in their household.

"When I was in 8th grade, my parents first started doing this and making Facebook posts about people bringing donations," Reichenbach said. "I dressed up as the Grinch and helped how I could and then when it came time to come up with an idea for my project I thought this might make sense."

Pretty much each year since, the Reichenbachs have spent one night collecting donations. They live in Josephine's Crossing, also known as Whoville during the holidays, and Colby's dad Ben said that they saw an opportunity to take advantage of the extra traffic coming to see Christmas lights.

"So, we just started this like four to five years ago, just basically raising food for Tumbleweed and then gift cards to homeless teens," Ben Reichenbach said.

But Colby saw the opportunity to expand. He created a website, a GoFundMe page and planned to hold three drop-off dates instead of just one.

“I knew this was something I could expand on, and by putting more thought into it and creating a bigger event out of it, I knew I could make more of a difference than just that one day,” Colby said.

His dad couldn't be more proud.

"He took this farther than we ever did, that's for sure," Ben said. He's always been hardworking and definitely not selfish. For him to expand this, it makes us happy obviously as parents."

Colby is also collecting more than they had in the past. Any gift cards collected will be equally split between Senior, Skyview and West for students who need them. All non-perishable food, finances from the GoFundMe and toiletries will be given to Tumbleweed.

Reichenbach's wrestling coach and Spanish teacher Jeremy Hernandez said that Colby's project is a testament to his character.

"You can tell he's the type of kid that's going to be able to do this platinum project at a high level," Hernandez said. "It shows how selfless he is. It's not about him trying to make himself look like this big guy. It's all about him doing this for these unfortunate kids that don't have this or that."

The second of three drop-off dates was held Sunday in Whoville, starting at 6:30, with the final one scheduled for Dec. 17 at the same time. Colby said that while the project is certainly not about him, he's definitely felt the rewards.

"Planning it can be stressful, but once you get out there you’re just having fun and understanding that you’re doing something to help others is a good feeling, especially during the Christmas season,” Reichenbach said.