Indian Creek schools and the community that supports them have a new rallying cry.
The powerful words are printed on T-shirts and on signs, posted on Facebook pages and Twitter. Throughout Trafalgar and southern Johnson County, people are proud to be “Bravestrong.”
The slogan is only the start of the support for the families of four Indian Creek students.
The four boys — ages 4 to 14 — are fighting for their lives against blood and bone cancers. Schools, businesses and civic organizations have collected money and raised money to pay for gas cards and food to help with unforeseen costs that go with treating the disease.
Orange — the color of leukemia awareness — has become an unofficial uniform around Trafalgar. Hundreds of people packed into the Indian Creek High School gymnasium in January for a special night honoring the boys.
“It’s that Hoosier hospitality. It makes you feel like a community is supposed to feel like,” said Matt Davidson, whose son, Zane, has leukemia. “Even though everyone is busy with their own lives, we still live in a place that will take time out just to help other people.”
A.J. Jones, 14, Chase Smith, 13, Zane Davidson, 11, and Grant Harding, 4, all find themselves in similar situations. Their days consist of immunity-boosting medications, ongoing rounds of chemotherapy treatment and doctor appointment after appointment.
Their blood is sampled and scrutinized, looking for any indication of infection or improvement. Even a slight fever is cause for concern and often requires a trip to the hospital.
The focus for them and their families is solely on beating this disease. It takes precedence over work, repairing the home, even buying groceries.
That’s why people throughout Trafalgar have come forward to take care of more minor details for this family.
Dan Dugan, owner of Dugan Air, offered to install high-quality filtration systems for the Smith and Harding families for free to help improve the air quality in their homes.
“We try help out with these boys as much as we could,” Dugan said. “We like to be involved with those kinds of things, and they needed the help.”
Teachers at Indian Creek Intermediate School, where Zane is a fifth-grader, wore gray-and-orange InZane shirts for their school photos this year. Some have volunteered to go to Zane’s home to help him keep up with his classmates, since he’s too sick to be in school.
The entire student body has held “Zane Days,” where they dress up in as much orange as they have.
“Even though he’s not here with us physically, he’s here with us in spirit. We’re always thinking about him,” said Dave Ennis, principal at Indian Creek Intermediate School.
Tami Franklin, a Trafalgar resident and Grant Harding’s aunt, rallied a group of local residents to create a support group, “Don’t Take Things for GRANTed.”
They designed T-shirts, stickers and bracelets to sell to help Grant’s family. Organizers put on garage sales, charity dinners and silent auctions for additional funds.
“Their situation just hit my heart,” Franklin said. “They were dealing with the medical issues, and as a family it was my job to step up with the financial issues. And the community has been amazing to support it.”
Even those outside Trafalgar stepped up.
The Greenwood Fire Department, which Matt Davidson works for, formed a donation foundation to help the family cover gas money for trips to Riley Hospital for Children, meals during Zane’s chemotherapy and other incidental costs associated with the treatment.
The family has already put 20,000 miles on their car in about seven months, just from driving to the Indianapolis hospital.
“We needed money at the beginning. I couldn’t believe how much everything costs, from the trips back and forth to the food at Riley,” Matt Davidson said.
On Jan. 30, Indian Creek declared that the boys basketball game vs. Brown County would be an “orange out.” Fans and attendees were encouraged to wear as much orange as they could. The basketball team wore orange shoes and presented a pair to each of the four boys as a gift.
Local businesses, such as Dunn Hardware, Dugan Air, McDonald’s and Mutual Savings Bank, chipped in money to go toward a fund supporting the four families.
The idea was to stand together with their neighbors to help the four families involved in any way they could, said Sharon Dunn, who owns Dunn Hardware with her husband, Brian.
Money raised that night helped pay for a night out for A.J., Grant, Chase and Zane on Feb. 7 that would be fun without exposing them to potentially dangerous sicknesses.
Indian Creek schools worked with the Indiana Pacers and Compton Strategies, the host of last weekend’s Hoosier Invitational, to have the four boys sit in a suite at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the Indian Creek vs. Edinburgh basketball game.
They rode in a limousine to Indianapolis and watched their home team in luxury, all in a protective environment that wouldn’t put their health at risk.
The effort is indicative of the efforts that people have gone to for A.J., Grant, Zane and Chase.
“Zane and all of those boys got to be normal for a couple of hours. They got to be kids,” Matt Davidson said. “I’m floored by the amount of people who have come forward to help.”
Efforts are ongoing to support Indian Creek students A.J. Jones, Grant Harding, Zane Johnston and Chase Smith.
Here’s how to help
What: The Indian Creek High School athletics department is selling orange “#Bravestrong” shirts with all four boys’ names on the back.
Cost: T-shirts are $8
Where to help: Shirts can be purchased at the Indian Creek athletics office. Proceeds benefit the boys and their families.
What: Indian Creek Sharks, the school’s swim club, is selling apparel in support of Chase Smith and his family that bear the phrase “#Chasestrong” and “We Are #Chasestrong.”
Cost: Ranges from $10 to $38.
Where to help: Items are available at icasharks.org.
Don’t Take Things for GRANTed
What: In support of Grant Harding and his family, a committee has been formed to create and sell t-shirts and bracelets, as well as take donations.
Cost: Shirts range from $10 to $16, with bracelets costing $2.
Where to help: Order or make donations by contacting Tami Franklin at 306-9438, or go to donttakethingsforgranted.com.