ARCADIA, Ind. (WISH) — Students who had their prom canceled because of a fatal car crash are getting another chance thanks to the generosity of others.
Hamilton Heights High School announced to students Thursday the district will be having another prom.
The announcement came almost two weeks after Kalen Hart was killed on her way to the dance. Her boyfriend, Lendon Byram, a student at Cathedral, was also killed in the crash.
School officials have been overwhelmed with community support, which was part of the reason they thought they owed it to the kids to accept the kindness of so many strangers.
From the venue to the tuxes, from the food to even the special hairstyles, it’s all free for the roughly 330 students who purchased tickets.
“It doesn’t surprise me but it’s very overwhelming,” said Whitney Gray, Hamilton Heights assistant principal. “It’s such a good reminder that people are good.”
Sara Smith, owner of Maple Lane Pavilion in rural Arcadia, told the school leaders they should look at their barn just down the road from the high school as potential venue for the rescheduled prom.
Gray said, “We’re really just blown away by how perfect this would be and how close to the school it was. When we stood there and asked her, ‘OK, what would we owe you for this?’”
Smith finishes the story. “I kind of looked at her all confused because I’m like, ‘I didn’t want you to come out here to try to make a sale. I want you to come and see what I could offer you.’”
That was just the beginning.
The Elite Banquet & Conference Center in Kokomo, where the original prom happened, offered to cater for free.
The J. Everett Light Career Center in Indianapolis, which some students attend, will provide free hair services from its cosmetology students, and free desserts from its culinary students.
After Prom, at Bowl 32 in Noblesville, is also free.
Staff first informed Kalen’s family, then told the students.
“It was really fun to see their faces and how respectful they were in hearing that information and knowing there’s still a lot of emotions involved to really see their demeanor shift and be excited about this event,” Gray said.
Louie’s Tux Shop where 28 had rented their tuxes initially offered free re-rentals at first, then called back two days later to offer free rentals to all which means anywhere from 150-175 free rentals.
“They understood how expensive it is. I think that was one of the first thoughts for the guys,” Gray said. “Cool to see that, means a lot.”
Everyone hopes this helps the community heal, in a small way redeeming a night that will be remembered forever for all the wrong reasons.
“It just broke my heart to know that not only are they hurting for their lost classmates but they’re also hurting because they missed out on a really important high school event,” Smith said. “I feel that by giving them this prom it will help so much with their healing and help with the fellowship with their friends because with COVID they couldn’t hang out all the time.”
There will also be some chances to honor Kalen’s memory. Gray said that includes a lantern glow at the end of the night, but officials don’t want it to be the focus either.
“It’s something we want to recognize,” Gray said. “We don’t want it to overtake the evening and be at the forefront of what kids are seeing of that night but we want to be respectful about it.”
More plans and special things are likely to be added as more vendors continue to offer up their services.
The rescheduled prom is set for Thursday June 3, the day after the last day of school and two days before graduation.
For students who choose not to go for whatever reason, they can get a full refund of their ticket or donate the cost of their ticket to Kalen Hart’s memorial fund.
Gray estimates that 98% of students so far have told the school they want to go.