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Community comes together after teens killed on way to Hamilton Heights prom

Teens killed on way to prom
Posted at 9:25 PM, May 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-05 21:25:39-04

KOKOMO — A community continues to come together after the tragic loss of two teens, Kalen Hart and Lendon Byram, as they drove to the Hamilton Heights High School prom Saturday night.

Tom Trine, co-owner of Elite Banquet and Conference Center in Kokomo, where the prom was set to take place Saturday, said he heard of the accident just before he started preparing the dinner for the prom.

Immediately he said he asked what he could do to help.

On Saturday night, Trine recalled some administrators stepping in, students came by and vendors like the D.J., stayed in an effort to be there for one another and see how they could help the larger community.

When the school called Trine and his team earlier this week, he said they asked him how much they owed him for the venue and such. Trine said the question took him by surprise and said before they could finish asking the question, he told them it is all taken care of.

“I couldn’t imagine as a father what that would be like. I mean I just absolutely couldn’t imagine. You try to think of what people would say, how they would feel, but it’s just impossible. I don’t think you could do it and would ever want to do it,” Trine said. “When the tragedy took place, it was just, literally what can we do to help and when the school called and said what do we need to do and there was only one answer, and that was what can we do to help you?”

Assistant Principal of Hamilton Heights High School, Whitney Gray, said in a Facebook post the bill was several thousand dollars. She reflected on it all writing in part in a Facebook post, “I’m convinced, now more than ever, that kindness and empathy will change the world.”

Gray said she is beyond grateful and thankful for the continued community support during this time.

“I’m convinced, now more than ever, that kindness and empathy will change the world. I have been so inspired and humbled by the complete outpouring and support I (and we as a school) have felt,” Gray wrote.

Kalen Hart's funeral is scheduled for this Friday at 10 a.m. at Randall and Roberts Funeral Center in Noblesville. Visitation is this Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. at the same location.

Lendon Byram’s visitation is Friday from 3 to 7 p.m. at Cicero Christian Church. His funeral will take place this Saturday at 10 a.m. at the same church.

Official statement from Dr. Derek Arrowood, Superintendent, Hamilton Heights School Corporation:

This has been a somber week at Hamilton Heights. When our school community experiences a tragedy, such as the loss of a young life, it impacts all of us. While there are no words, what I have seen in the wake of this deadly accident is that the Heights community has a way of wrapping its collective arms around those families and classmates impacted most.

Amid the grief and tears we’ve seen over the past couple of days, we’ve also seen and felt a little more compassion and kindness as we take pause in this painful reminder of the fragility of life and process this crushing loss. Meanwhile, there are three other students who survived the car accident that took the lives of Kalen and her prom date, Lendon Byram. Those students and their families’ lives also changed in an instant and they will continue to need our support, strength, and grace in their healing journey.

Kalen is remembered as a caring and kind young woman with a bright smile and affectionate personality. She loved music and singing, and had the gift of a beautiful voice. Like most seniors, she was excited for prom, graduation, and to head off to college to pursue a degree in education in August. I think Jennifer Kitzmiller, HHHS and HHMS Choir Director, captures the essence of this promising student well in her reflection below:

When I first met Kalen, she was a little bit scared of her own voice. However, it didn’t take her long to grow into a confident soprano who was full of conviction and spirit for her fellow singers. She believed we could always do better and was never afraid of saying so. Kalen spurred us ever forward in her own way.

When we began this wild 2020-21 school year, I asked all my choir singers to make two different pie charts. The first depicting what made up the choir experience before COVID, and the second depicting what they hoped choir would include despite COVID. Both of Kalen's pie charts tell a story that was key to knowing who she was: that no matter what, we should always spend the majority of our efforts focused on friendship and love. She is beloved and her presence, personality, and voice is sorely missed by us all.

Perhaps the best way we can pay tribute and remember Kalen is to take to heart the way she lived her life – through kindness, friendship, song, and love. Even though our hearts are heavy, let’s continue to lean on each other for comfort and courage as we mourn the lives of two young people taken too soon. Our thoughts and prayers are with these families and the students at this incredibly difficult time.