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Businesses, strangers, friends rally around victims’ families

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Blue and white ribbons and other messages of support for three teens and their families have spread beyond Franklin.

Since last week, residents have hung ribbons in downtown Franklin and along U.S. 31 in support of Jason Moran, Michael Chadbourne and Sarah McLevish. Now, in and outside Johnson County more individuals, groups and businesses are rallying for the teens and their families by hanging ribbons, offering prayers and raising money.

Blue ribbons have been spotted as far north as Crystal Graphics in Whiteland and on signs and other objects at U.S. 31 and Tracy Road.


Franklin students and residents have been using hashtags to share photos and memories of Moran and Chadbourne, who died after being pulled under the water at the base of the dam at the Big Blue River in Edinburgh, and of McLevish, who has been in critical condition at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis since June 6. Now, residents in Greenwood and Whiteland are posting and tweeting support for the teens and their families, using the hashtag #franklinstrong.

Thousands of people are following a Facebook page for McLevish. In Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and Gilbert, Arizona, people took pictures of blue and white ribbons and posted them online.

Local residents organized nearly a dozen fundraisers to help the teens’ families pay for funeral and medical expenses.

The mother of Mark Nally, who along with Trent Crabb pulled Chadbourne and McLevish from the water, said the community’s support has been essential.

“The prayers are not futile. All of the families feel every single ounce of prayer, comfort and support,” Deb Brown-Nally said.

Fundraising drives started Monday, when Franklin schools created a memorial fund for the families, and have continued this week as people who knew the teens or who simply wanted to help organized events.

Franklin teacher Lesleigh Groce, who had McLevish as a student last school year, helped create a design for nearly 600 Franklin Strong shirts, which are being sold for $10 each.

All of the money from the first 100 sales and $6.50 from the rest will go to a fund for the three families. On Wednesday, 250 shirts were sold, and on Thursday another 250 shirts were sold in about 20 minutes.

Taelor Cragen, who will be a junior at Franklin this fall, hopes to raise between $1,000 and $2,000 for the families this weekend. After she posted on Facebook that she planned to drop buckets off at area businesses where people could leave donations, she heard from people in Trafalgar and Greenwood who wanted to contribute.

“People want to help who aren’t from here,” she said.

Even if people didn’t know the five teens, the shock of what happened resonates with them, Clark-Pleasant assistant superintendent John Schilawski said.

“Teen tragedy like this transcends school loyalty,” Schilawski said. “Your heart goes out to anyone who is hurt or suffers a great loss like this. And no one ever wants to see a teen (experience) a tragedy.”

When people hear about this kind of tragedy, it either reminds them of something similar that happened to them or ignites the fear that such a thing could happen to them, he said. And as the summer progresses and the school year starts, Clark-Pleasant will make available counselors and any other resources or help Franklin needs, he added.

“Anything the families would need or that the school corporation would need, as a neighbor, we would extend any and all assistance that we could provide, if in some small way it can help the families or those students,” Schilawski said.

Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness, who spoke at a memorial service for Moran on Wednesday, said he had never seen the county rally around its residents in such a way before. But it’s important that the support remains strong, far beyond the first day of school and the start of football season this fall, he said.

“We need to remember that the healing process hasn’t even started yet,” McGuinness said. “We need to make sure that (the families) continue to have the support they’ll need for months and probably years to come.”

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