MURRAY — Thursday’s fourth annual Murray-Calloway County Community Foundation Celebration of Philanthropy honored many accomplishments and individuals.
However, this evening belonged solely to one man, 1986 Calloway County High School graduate Darin Loftis, who was a United States Air Force lieutenant colonel when he died in action in 2012 in Afghanistan. That sentiment was shared by his classmates, who helped form the J. Darin Loftis Scholarship and have helped it grow with the Community Foundation’s help.
Every award given Thursday had a connection to that scholarship, but that was not the intention for the people who have made this happen. Instead, it was about making sure everyone in the room knew that this man, who served his country selflessly, was not forgotten.
“This is Darin’s night. This is not about me at all,” said Tim Weatherford, one of Loftis’ classmates, who himself took home the Philanthropist of the Year honor, while the scholarship supporters themselves were named Nonprofit Endowment of the Year. “It’s because of him that this is happening (with two Calloway seniors, Madison Adams and Kallie Garrison being named recipients of this year’s scholarship).
Perhaps fittingly, Garrison is the daughter of current Calloway art teacher Mickey Garrison, a classmate of Loftis.
“Whenever I was applying for the scholarship, my mom told me how my dad had graduated with him so I’d go and talk to him about (Loftis) and what kind of person he was,” Kallie said.
“I just hope I can live up to his name. I’m so incredibly honored to receive this,” said Adams, who had earlier been like everyone else in the room and had watched a video of Loftis in Afghanistan that was put together before he died in 2012.
In that video, Loftis explained why he was driven to perform his mission with such passion that he felt compelled to communicate to the Afghan people in their language. He talked of how he would meet an Afghan man whose eyes would be full of distrust, but as Loftis would talk to him in the man’s own language, the man would soften and even break into smile and laughter.
“That’s because I’ve taken the time to learn their language,” Loftis said. “We need longer term relationships. The enemy is the target. The people are the objective. Don’t lose one as you pursue the other.”
Loftis appeared on a large projector screen as the video went from showing him speaking in what appeared to be an office room one second to following him as he would relate to the Afghan people the next.
Community Foundation President Harold Hurt said it was the efforts of his classmates that earned them the honors Thursday.
“They had a phone bank that they set up in my office and they raised more money for the second scholarship,” Hurt said. Weatherford confirmed that, before that, they only had enough funds for one this year.
“This is an endowment that has shown a lot of progress. They’re not just sitting still, they’re really working hard to move this along.”
The president of the Community Foundation of West Kentucky, Tony Watkins, also said he has been impressed with the people behind this effort.
“It’s been amazing to watch this unfold,” Watkins said. “I didn’t know Lt. Col. Darin Loftis, but I have gotten to know his friends who went to school with him. And they were doing this 28 years after they all graduated.”