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story.lead_photo.caption During Saturday's Redemption Inside the Walls concert, "Heroes of the Storm" were recognized at Jefferson City Jaycee's Fairgrounds. They were awarded wood planks from trees cut down after the May 22 tornado that hit Eldon and Jefferson City. Photo by Linda Schaeben

What was meant to be a concert to help a little girl turned into so much more following the May 22 EF-3 tornado that swept through Jefferson City and surrounding communities.

A sea of people clapped, danced and sang along to songs by Australia-based Christian band Newsboys during Saturday's Redemption Inside the Walls concert at the Jefferson City Jaycees Fairgrounds, 1445 Fairgrounds Road.

The concert's main goal was to remind residents they are "stronger after the storm," organizers Kirk DeMars and Paula Benne said.

"There's a lot of people who maybe had their hope dashed a little bit, and they just needed to be lifted up, so this event we just really feel like is a good opportunity to lift people up and restore hope," DeMars said.

Concert organizers and the News Tribune partnered to recognize "heroes of the storm" who went above and beyond to help the community in the days following the twister. Community members nominated the recipients, who then received plaques made from trees torn down during the storm.

There were nearly 20 individuals and organizations who received plaques Saturday night. They were:

Laurel Dunwoody, with Love2Nourish,

Steve Barnes, Alan Braun, Gary Braun and Justin Braun, with the Cole County Fire Protection District,

Kevin Riley and family, with Riley Auto Group,

The Salvation Army,

Lorenzo Davis Jr., with Building Community Bridges,

Thorpe Gordon Elementary School teachers,

Derese Herndon,

Zach Paul, with KRCG 13,

Cassie Huckabay,

Melissa Lee,

California Women's Business Council,

Cassie Pruitt, Annie Pruitt,

Doug Schrimpf, with Doug Schrimpf Construction,

Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Larry Linthacum, with Jefferson City Public Schools, and

Andrea and Mitch Koetting.

You can read each recipient's story by clicking on the links above.

"It's a way to give back those trees and have a purpose for them and a way for people to thank those that helped them because it's a healing for them," Benne said. "It also recognizes individuals who just — I'm a loss for words. This is an awesome community, and that's when the good comes out."

A few extra plaques were also part of the silent auction at the concert. Someone who has a hero he or she wants to recognize could bid on the plaques, which could then be engraved, Benne said.

The concert was originally set to take place at the Missouri State Penitentiary, but the old prison was damaged during the tornado.

Holly Harber, of Jefferson City, swayed and clapped along to the Newsboys' songs Saturday night. She said she liked the theme of the concert and the Newsboys, but she also wanted to show her support for tornado victims.

"The devastation was horrendous," she said. "While I wasn't personally affected, so many people were, and so many people will need help for a long time. I wasn't able to help at the time so I just want to help where I can behind the scenes."

The Newsboys are most known for their song "God's Not Dead," which was featured in the film of the same name. The band has sold 8 million recordings and earned six gold albums. Dozens of the band's singles have reached No. 1.

Bryan Wolford, of California, attended the concert with his family. He said they wanted to attend because they enjoy the Newsboys' music.

"We've seen them before, and we're here for the message," Wolford added.

The concert not only recognized storm heroes and provided comfort to those impacted by the storm, but it also raised funds for Leah Hargrove, a 1-year-old from Centertown who was born with a cleft lip, orbital cleft palate, total nasal occlusion and visual impairment, according to a GoFundMe page set up for Hargrove.

Benne was inspired by Hargrove's story and wanted to help. As someone involved in several organizations, Benne knew she wanted to do something different and unique and thought a "revival inside the walls" was just that.

"It started as a fundraiser for Leah, but this is too large," Benne said. "This is a community event. This is a hope and healing for our storm victims, and it's also supposed to recognize those storm heroes. It's much bigger."

Individuals can donate to the Hargrove family by visiting

Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin, who also received a wooden "heroes of the storm" plaque, declared Saturday as "Newsboys Day" and "Baby Leah Hargrove Day."

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