Warm-hearted clothing project of teen goes on after her death

The day before she died, Fruita Monument High School student Caitlyn True dressed as a homeless person as part of a class presentation so she could introduce Warm Hearts, a blanket- and coat-collecting project for her community.

The next day, True fell from a moving vehicle and suffered blunt-force injuries to her head. Her body was kept on life support in honor of her wishes to be an organ and tissue donor. She died Oct. 16. She was 17.

Now, thousands of students across the nation will be carrying out Caitlyn’s project by collecting coats this winter in her honor.

Warm Hearts has been adopted by Rachel’s Challenge, a national youth organization dedicated to “creating a chain reaction of kindness and compassion” within communities. The organization was created in memory of Rachel Scott, the first shooting victim at Columbine High School. Schools set up their own chapters of Rachel’s Challenge, then complete their own programs of kindness and compassion.

“Caitlyn was really the poster child for our club members,” said Tracey Burke, adult sponsor for the Friends of Rachel club at Fruita 8/9 School. “She was the kind of girl we wish every student to be like.”

Burke contacted Dana Scott, one of Rachel Scott’s sisters and the national organizer of Rachel’s Challenge, and told her about Caitlyn and her Warm Hearts project.

“This is exactly the kind of project that can make a permanent atmosphere change within the schools,” Burke said.

Burke has been told that more than 1,500 Friends of Rachel clubs nationwide will begin collecting coats and other winter clothing in honor of Caitlyn.

“We need to extend the deadline, but we’re ready to go,” Burke said, adding she and Scott are working out the details for the national campaign.

Locally, hundreds of coats and blankets already have been collected, said Cathy Switzer, a family friend and one of the organizers of the project.

“Because Caity was such an amazing person, who touched a lot of lives, we wanted to continue this project for her,” Switzer said.

Many volunteers and local businesses have come together in a short amount of time to kick off the clothing drive.

“We’re just trying to continue her spirit on,” said Chris Neilsen, owner of Hobby Hut, one of the collection sites.

Neilsen’s box has been filled and emptied more than six times in less than a week, he said.

“Anything like this that would help other people is something she would have wanted,” Neilsen said.

Another Grand Junction business, Wild Child Clothing, collected blankets for homeless shelters Saturday as part of the effort.

Other collection sites include Fruita Monument High School, Absolute Dance, True Chiropractic Health Center, Kidzplex, Glow Salon and Judy’s Restaurant.

All warm-winter clothing, including hats, gloves and socks, is being accepted at the drop-off sites. The drive ends Nov. 15, and the clothing will be distributed before Thanksgiving.


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