A southern Indiana high school wrecked by tornadoes won a free concert by country music stars Lady Antebellum on Tuesday thanks to a rival school that, along with students in other states, advocated on the battered school's behalf in an online contest.
Schools from as far away as northern Wisconsin submitted YouTube videos urging the Grammy-winning group to choose Henryville High School in the band's "Own the Night" contest offering the winning school a concert at its prom. Henryville's schools were heavily damaged when powerful tornadoes ripped through the region earlier this month, killing 13 people.
The winning video was entered by students at longtime sports rival Silver Creek High School in nearby Sellersburg, Ind. Henryville also got video support from a southern Illinois community hit by a fatal tornado in February.
"It meant a lot to us and made a lot of people cry. Knowing there's that many people out there that cared to give it to us instead of their own prom," said 17-year-old Henryville junior Daniele Kats.
She said word spread quickly on Facebook about Lady Antebellum's choosing her school for the concert, adding: "It's gonna be awesome."
Lady Antebellum said the band was touched by Henryville's "story, resilience and unity following devastating tornadoes." Because of a scheduling conflict, the trio won't be able to perform at Henryville's prom on April 27, so a concert will be held for juniors and seniors in nearby Louisville, Ky., on May 16, followed by a benefit for the community.
Lady Antebellum singer Charles Kelley said Henryville students shouldn't be disappointed that the band won't be able to visit their community.
"Trust me, we have something even bigger in store," Kelley said in the band's video announcing the win. Fellow singer Hillary Scott added: "See you soon, Henryville!"
The trio, rounded out by Dave Haywood, won best country album at this year's Grammy Awards for "Own the Night," and took home several Grammys last year, including record and song of the year for "Need You Now." Details about its Louisville concert will be released soon.
The winning video from Silver Creek High School included footage of the devastation in Henryville and interviews with residents. It ends with a student standing in a field before dozens of classmates, saying: "Lady A, even if we don't win the contest, we're still going to own the night anyway" before they begin chanting "HHS! HHS!"
Other video entries supporting Henryville came from D.C. Everest Senior High School in Weston, Wis., and from Harrisburg, Ill., where a tornado that struck Feb. 29 killed seven people. Harrisburg students said that despite their community's loss, they decided to back Henryville's prom bid.
Henryville art teacher Amy Fischmer, the prom committee's co-chairwoman, said her students were "grateful and happy" about the outpouring of support on the school's behalf following the devastating storms on March 2.
"That day was a tragedy, but they're just rallying and making the most of it and just enjoying life," she said. "For the winning video to be one that was entered on their behalf from another school makes it mean so much more. It kind of reaffirms your hope in humanity."
Classes for Henryville high school students will resume on April 2 in a nearby community. The prom, which is expecting about 200 students, also will be held at another site.
Mary Beth Coffman, Silver Creek's mass media teacher, recruited three of her students to be the video's stars and spent two days filming in Henryville for the video.
"I've been jumping up and down and screaming by myself," Coffman said. "I'm so excited to be part of something that's going to be so special."
Associated Press writers Carrie Schedler and Caitlin King in Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this report.