Kenny Walter smiling while giving speech in front of a lectern

A giving spirit

The Kenny Walter Scholarship Fund was established to honor the generous spirit of Kenny Walter, a charismatic leader who devoted 34 years to Farm Bureau. The fund drew 160 donations, the largest in the foundation’s history. Kenny’s son, Scott, shares the story about how the family was able to raise more than $42,000 in just a few weeks and how touched Kenny was by the establishment of the scholarship.

It was a present to last many lifetimes. The gift brought tears to the eyes of family members who had gathered in mid-October 2016 for an early celebration of the 60th wedding anniversary of Kenny and Susie Walter. The gift was the establishment of a scholarship in Kenny’s name with several thousand dollars already donated. Eight months earlier, Kenny had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and the family wanted to honor his legacy of helping and inspiring others in rural and agricultural communities.

“Mom one day piped up and said she wanted to start a scholarship in Dad’s name. We realized it was a great way to do it through Farm Bureau after his long career working there,” said his son, Scott Walter.

Over his 34-year career with Ohio Farm Bureau, Kenny worked as a regional supervisor and organization director, and the Tuscarawas County native had a knack for identifying future agricultural leaders. He also was a skilled communicator who talked with ease with everybody from members of Congress to his Amish neighbors.

“Dad had a way of making people so comfortable that they wanted to be around him. He was somebody everybody turned to for leadership and advice,” Scott said.

Because the family wanted to establish an endowed fund, which lasts in perpetuity, they needed to raise $25,000. Typically that takes about three years. When Kenny’s health started to rapidly decline, the family decided to ramp up its efforts to establish the scholarship. With the help of Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation Executive Director Chris Baker, the family put together a committee of key leaders that Kenny had been involved with during his career. They made a list of all the people Kenny had touched during his life and contacted them about donating to the new scholarship. Working on soliciting donations was a welcome distraction for Kenny.

“It was good therapy for him the last few weeks. He’d go through the files and look for contact names,” Scott said of his father. “We tried to get it done as quickly as possible so he could see who had contributed and read their handwritten card or comments on a website page created for the scholarship.”

In just over a month, more than $40,000 had been raised with donations coming from 160 donors. It was the largest number of people who had donated to a single cause in the foundation’s history.

Kenny, who died Oct. 26, 2016, just two days before his wedding anniversary, was honored that the scholarship would help so many others.

“The fact that we raised so much money so fast is a testament to the guy he was and how he treated people his whole life,” Scott said.

The Walter Fund provides scholarships to students pursuing post-secondary education in agriculture who come from the 29 northeastern counties Walter served as a regional supervisor and organization director. Help keep this fund thriving by making a donation today.