A team of Big Event workers carries tools and heads to a bus to be transported to one of close to 100 job sites. (Gary Herron/Observer)


The “thanks” part of Thanksgiving came 12 days early for at least 100 Rio Rancho area residents.

That’s because dozens of teams of student and adult volunteers ventured into City of Vision neighborhoods to help mostly senior citizen-residents take care of yard work – raking leaves, cutting weeds, picking up trash, cleaning windows and helping set up holiday decorations, free of charge.

It was part of RRHS’s 14th Big Event, originally staged by William Duncan when he was the school’s activities director. It’s been carried on the past two years after the pandemic forced cancellation of the 2020 event by his successor, Chris Salas. Salas said there were 600 students, 100 adults and as many as 100 job sites this time.

While most of their classmates were probably still in bed Saturday morning, these Rio Rancho High School, plus students from other high schools including Cleveland and Atrisco Heritage Academy, had an early breakfast at RRHS and then began to get organized.

Garden and leaf rakes, weed cutters and wheelbarrows were available on the south end of the band’s practice field for workers to take with them.

RRHS cheer coach Wendy Lopez had 48 of her cheerleaders participating, she said, and Salas said that because some people who’d asked to have the help had to postpone Saturday’s work, those sites will later be served by the school’s Marine JROTC and baseball players.

Fourteen buses were lined up on the east side of the RRHS campus, and the first pulled out onto Loma Colorado Boulevard at 9:55 a.m., under sunny skies and cool, fall temperatures, heading to the work sites. They returned to RRHS to have lunch and start what remained of their weekend three or four hours later

Steph Billbrough, mother of RRHS sophomore Carlie Billbrough, a member of the school’s Associated Students, was one of the “veteran” adult volunteers.

She said it was at least her seventh Big Event participation, since an older daughter had worked at several before graduating – and recalled Carlie being only 10 years old at one of them.