SAINT LEON, Ind. — East Central High School students tweaked their volleyball uniforms on Tuesday to honor a school alumna hurt in Afghanistan.
Kelsee Lainhart was one of 18 Marines hurt last week during a suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan. Her former high school's volleyball team was part of a military salute to Lainhart by adding blue to the Trojan's traditional red and white uniforms.
"She kind of made the room light up," said Grant Schiering, an East Central High School teacher. "(She) just always fun to be around. There was always laughing around her. And people did listen to her ... She was a leader and people followed. It was a joy to be around her."
Fellow teacher Pam Donohue agreed with Schiering, adding that honoring the former student and injured Marine was essential for her.
"Whatever happened, whatever was going on, she was the one to say, 'What can I do? Where do you need me? Who do you need me to talk to to get their you-know-what in gear?'" Donohue said.
Lainhart also was elected a council executive in her senior year of high school, and she led her classmates through giving.
As a student, Lainhart volunteered in food drives, hurricane relief efforts, Lymphoma and Leukemia Society fundraisers and through a tragedy that struck her community in February 2019.
"We had a senior pass away in a car accident on the way to school," Schiering said.
"She was right there," Donohue added. "'Okay, what are we going to do? What are we going to do to show his family and the school how much we care? And what can we do for them to help them?' I mean, she was always first in line of anything that was going on. 'How can I help?'"
Donohue and Schiering agreed Lainhart's giving spirit and leadership in challenging times made news of her injuries even harder on those who know her.
It also was why the call for healing prayers asked for by Lainhart's mother went viral on social media and why the gesture at Tuesday night's volleyball game is so important, they said.
East Central High School's student council also will use upcoming volleyball and football games to highlight T-shirts it is making to sell and raise money to show Lainhart the kind of support she gave the community.
"We don't know how much military will cover after she gets out," Schiering said. "And it's going to be a long road, so we want to do as much as we can to help her family."
Students hoped to get their T-shirt design approved before Wednesday. Those shirts then will be on sale to the public.
People in the community also are planning a massive mailing campaign to flood Lainhart's hospital room with cards from as many people as possible.
None of it surprises Donohue or Schiering.
"Kelsee is just one in a million," Donohue said.