Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

April 26, 2014

United Way president: 'You give of who you are'

United Way honors KHS students for tornado relief efforts

It was the hashtag on Twitter that sparked a youth movement in Kokomo: #765StandUp.

That was the hashtag that drew more than 300 students from all over the county to help clean up the rubble left in the wake of November’s tornadoes.

Kokomo High School senior Tayler Persons sent the tweet. His fellow classmate, Joey Hurlocker, saw it, and decided to help organize the hordes of students who showed up the day after to start cleaning up.

Their initiative to help the city during one of its darkest times won the two students accolades during the annual United Way of Howard County Volunteer Recognition Reception.

Persons was honored as the new-initiative volunteer of the year. Hurlocker was named the youth volunteer of the year.

“I’m very honored to receive such a wonderful award,” Persons told the more than 100 people who attended the award ceremony Friday afternoon at Crossroads Community Church. “I want to thank my family and everyone who taught me to give back to people in need.”

The United Way of Howard County said Persons’ tweet was the spark that was needed to get things moving on the Kokomo Strong and 765StandUp initiatives.

“What began as a desire to enlist about 30 volunteers grew to 300 with the help of that tweet,” said Rob Rupe, a radio announcer with WIOU who emceed the event. “His large sphere of influence and friendship base spread across Kokomo High School fast.”

Persons said he was just a small part of the clean-up effort in November, and it was area students who made it successful.

“I want to thank every high school in the county,” he said. “They all helped. This is a big deal for all the youth of Kokomo. I think it shows we have a lot of character.”

Persons also said it was Hurlocker who really helped mobilize the students after the tweet got his fellow classmates fired up.

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