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$35,000 raised so far for families of teens in dam incident

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Restaurants, car dealerships and residents in and outside of Franklin have been dipping into their wallets over the past two weeks to support five Franklin teens.

Community members and businesses throughout Johnson County wanted to find a way to help the families of Jason Moran, Michael Chadbourne, Sarah McLevish, and to support Mark Nally and Trent Crabb. So restaurants started hosting fundraisers, offering to donate portions of their sales to the Franklin Community High School Family Fund.

By Monday, the community had raised more than $35,000 for the five teens and their families, and the fundraisers still aren’t finished.

In the two weeks since the teens went over the dam, Franklin students received permission to set up drop points around the county where people could leave donations for the teens and their families.

And teachers, including Lesleigh Groce, created and sold shirts to raise money.

One by one, the checks came in. An anonymous donation from a car dealership; $1,500 from a pizza place; $2,000 and counting from Groce’s shirts.

On Sunday, Time Out Bar and Grille sponsored a motorcycle ride, which easily topped 200 motorcycles, and a fundraiser that went from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Time Out raised about $11,500 from the event by Sunday night, which fell short of the $15,000 goal but was still an amazing amount of money to raise for the families in a single day, co-owner Chris Snow said.

“Everybody was so happy to be there donating and sharing the love, and it was a very emotional day,” Snow said. “Everybody was just so awesome. Everyone that showed up gave everything they had.”

Moran and Chadbourne died earlier this month after trying to help McLevish, who went over the dam at the Big Blue River in Edinburgh. All three teens were overpowered and pulled under the water at the base of the dam.

McLevish has been in critical condition at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis since the tragedy on June 6. Nally and Crabb also went over the dam trying to help McLevish, but were uninjured.

Franklin created the fund immediately after the tragedy to help raise money for funeral costs and medical bills. School officials weren’t sure how many donations to expect, but they weren’t counting on more than $35,000 in just over two weeks, high school principal Doug Harter said.

“It’s just been amazing, the amount of support that we have seen through the community,” Harter said.

Groce, one of McLevish’s teachers, helped design Franklin Strong shirts being sold for $10, with $6.50 going to the fund. She originally had about 600 shirts printed, but those were sold out in days, so Groce ordered another 1,000.

Every day someone asks Groce for a shirt, and she’ll keep ordering more until the requests stop, she said.

Another local resident, Sarah Christiansen, sold more than 700 Franklin Strong T-shirts through an online fundraiser website, raising more than $5,000, she said. She’s also been selling bumper stickers and some handmade jewelry to help raise money for the fund. She originally expected to raise a modest amount to help out the families but was shocked by how quickly people were snapping up the shirts.

“I originally set the goal for 50 (shirts). I didn’t anticipate it would take off and I’d have to drop that. By the end of the first day we had sold 350 shirts,” she said.

As the money continues to come in, school officials also need to decide the best way to spend it.

Originally, the money was going to be used to pay for funeral expenses for Moran and Chadbourne, and medical expenses for McLevish. But Jessen Funeral Home donated nearly everything that was needed for the funeral services in Franklin, including personnel and caskets, Harter and Jessen funeral director Jamie Rainey said.

Some of the money already is being used to help McLevish’s family pay for gas for their multiple trips to and from the hospital in Indianapolis, and school officials want to continue to see what kind of treatment she’ll need in the future before making any spending decisions, Harter said.

The fund also could be used to pay for counseling for Nally or Crabb, or for a scholarship in the teens’ names, Harter said. Harter, Superintendent David Clendening and executive director of finance Jeff Mercer will discuss all of the options before a decision is made, Harter said.

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