FORT JOHNSON -- Broadalbin-Perth seventh-grade student Trenton Richmond, 12, thinks he'd like to either be an engineer, an architect or possibly a marine biologist when he gets older.
In the meantime though, he's dedicated himself to philanthropy.
Trenton said in the months leading up to this holiday season he knew he wanted to try to put together a holiday light display around his parents' horseshoe driveway. He wanted to put to use skills he'd learned from his father, Mark Richmond, who's an auto technician, and his grandfather, who taught him about woodworking.
The project involved cutting wood, screwing things together, arranging and supplying power to numerous Christmas lights and automated ornaments like a moving snowman, as well as standing things up and staking things into the ground.
"It was a lot harder than I thought it would be, because there were things you couldn't put together and then when you got them up, they'd fall back down, and they'd break. I just kept putting them back up, and finding ways to put them together," he said.
In addition to the mechanical challenge of building the light display, Trenton said he knew he wanted to use the light display for a charitable purpose, possibly to solicit donations to a children's hospital.
He changed his mind after he heard about the tragic death of 20 people in the Schoharie limousine crash and the children orphaned by it. The crash, which took place on Oct. 6, was the worst transportation accident in the U.S. since 2009 and included the death of four sisters, two brothers and numerous married couples, most of them from the Amsterdam and Fulton County area.
The crash killed Adam and Abby Jackson, the parents of Archer Jackson, 4, and Elle Jackson, 1, and Rob and Mary Dyson, the parents of 3-year-old Isaac Dyson.
"I asked my mother about it, and she told me some of the people killed had children. I mean, it's so scary to think you could lose your parents and not even know that it was happening. To go to your grandparents and to have your parents never come home ...," Trenton said.
Trenton and his parents have dedicated the light display, at their home at 1286 County Highway 107 in Fort Johnson, to Archer Jackson, Elle Jackson and Isaac Dyson. The display includes a donation box, assembled and arranged by Trenton, into which people who drive through to look at the lights are asked to donate an unwrapped present or a monetary donation.
Trenton's mother, Amy Richmond, a math teacher at the Greater Amsterdam School District, said she didn't know Abby Jackson, who was also a teacher at the school district, but she has connected with the families of the crash victims through another family member who works for the district. She said her family will present the children with the presents and the cash donation before Christmas.
"The crash really rocked him," Amy Richmond said of her son. "We didn't know any of the families, but he just couldn't understanding the little ones could now be without their moms and dads."
Amy said her husband taught Trenton how to use the power tools necessary to build the light display, and together they have tried to teach him, and his brother, 9-year-old Logan, the importance of being kind to others.
"Especially in time of need, because this world is an awful place sometimes, and I'm so glad that we've tried to raise our boys to be gentlemen, and to be kind and to not follow suit with where our society sadly seems to be going. There's so much negativity, so we've tried to teach them how to have goodness in their hearts and to always share goodness with others," said Amy, who often breaks down into tears when discussing her children.
Mark Richmond said he was proud of his son working on the light display, although sometimes he had to hold back from worrying as he watched him do the work through a process of trial and error.
"It's a lot of work, he did about 90 percent of the work himself. I assisted with some of the heavy lifting," Mark said.
"I helped a little bit. I did a Christmas display, and helped with lighting, and tested things, putting things in, sometimes not the right way," Logan said.
Trenton said he's already thinking about ways to improve the project for next year. "I like building things and putting things together. Probably, next year, wire wise, I will try to run actual wires under the driveway instead of having extension cords all over the place. The water likes to pop breakers," he said.
Trenton's light display will run until Dec. 22 and is open each night at 6 until 9 p.m.