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'A lot of impact on a lot of people': Kalen Hart remembered as happy and free-spirited

Hamilton Heights senior died Friday on her way to prom
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Posted at 3:54 PM, May 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-04 11:17:08-04

HAMILTON COUNTY — Kalen Hart was looking forward to prom a year after it was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She had a date and a dress picked out for an evening with friends.

"She was excited because this year was her year," said Hart's sister, Bailey Burnworth.

Hart, a senior at Hamilton Heights High School, and Lendon Byram, a junior at Cathedral High School, had just visited Hart's father and were on their way to their mother's house before prom when they died in a two-vehicle crash at 5:15 p.m. Friday at East 281st Street and Lacy Road.

Two other teenagers in the vehicle also suffered non-life threatening injuries. Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Deputy Ryan McClain said their vehicle was hit on the driver's side by another teenager who is under the age of 18 and was not injured.

McClain said investigators have not yet determined who was at fault in the crash.

Hamilton Heights officials canceled all scheduled prom activities after the crash and made grief counselors available to students to offer support.

"This is an unimaginable loss for these families and our school community," a statement from the Hamilton Heights School Corporation read.

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Kalen Hart was preparing to graduate from Hamilton Heights High School.

Hart's mother and sister both said they were overwhelmed with the support they received at a vigil Sunday evening.

"There are so many people that loved her and all of those people are just as overwhelmed as the rest of us," said Hart's mother, Jody Conaway. "While my heart is breaking, my heart hurts for all of them, as well."

Conaway said she and her mother were filling out invitations to Kalen's graduation party when they became concerned something happened.

"We were starting to get worried because too much time had lapsed from the time she had left (her dad's) house and she wasn't at my house," Conaway said. "And her dad called and broke the news that Kalen had passed away."

Hart's family is also mourning the loss of Byram, who Conaway described as a "great kid" who was sweet and respectful.

"I really felt like he was one of the best things that happened to Kalen," Conaway said. "We will miss him in our house. We will miss him."

Hart's family remembered her as a happy, free-spirited young woman who loved singing and art. She planned to attend IU-Kokomo after graduation and dreamed of becoming a teacher.

"She had a lot of impact on a lot of people," Burnworth said.

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Kalen Hart (far left) with family members.

Hart's mother explained Kalen was a "miracle baby" who was born after she thought she was unable to have any more children.

"I got pregnant with her and it was a miracle, and then she was a month premature, but she thrived," Conaway said. "And she was so smart and so funny and so beautiful. There aren't enough adjectives to describe her."

Conaway started a Facebook fundraiser to raise money to help pay for Hart's funeral services. More than $22,000 in donations were made as of Monday afternoon, surpassing an original goal of $15,000.

Visitation will be held from 4-8 p.m. Thursday at Randall and Roberts Funeral Center in Noblesville with services to follow at 1 p.m. Friday. Hart will be buried at Cicero Cemetery.

“Tell everybody that you love them every chance you get," Conaway said. "Don’t take tomorrow for granted because it’s not promised. This is proving that fact.”

WRTV photographer Michael Japowicz and reporter Amber Grigley contributed to this report.

WRTV is working to learn more about Kalen Hart and Lendon Byram. If you have a memory or photos you would like to share, you can email us at news@wrtv.com or message us on Facebook or Twitter.

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