Hope was dashed Monday after devastating news that Sydney Loofe’s body was recovered earlier in the day in Clay County.
While hearts remained heavy and tears continued to flow Tuesday, a sense of unity was stronger than ever as Antelope County banded together to grieve the death of the 24-year-old Neligh native.
That unity was evident Tuesday night as Neligh-Oakdale hosted a benefit for the family. From
wearing green for missing child awareness to a free-will offering soup supper, the Loofes were constantly on the minds of everyone in attendance.
Sydney’s parents, George and Susie Loofe, are educators at Neligh-Oakdale — George serving as 7-12 principal and Susie as a special education teacher.
Superintendent Scott Gregory called the day difficult for the entire staff, as well as the community.
“People are very close to the Loofes,” Gregory said. “They know them and definitely were hoping for a better outcome. Being the facts are what they are, it’s a matter of embracing them and helping out the best way we can.”
Missing since Nov. 15, the entire county — and much of the state of Nebraska — has rallied around the family. During Tuesday’s benefit, students, parents, grandparents, community members, former educators and graduates all swarmed the school in support of the family.
Many sported pins with Sydney’s face on them, others wore green ribbons on their shirts. There were items to bid on from local businesses, a free-will soup supper, green lightbulbs for sale to show support. All of the effort in hopes of raising money to assist with expenses.
“It’s really sad what happened, and her memory will live on forever,” said Tyler Doerr, who graduated with Sydney in the Class of 2011. “We just have to keep her memory alive.”
Prior to varsity girls basketball action against Elgin Public/Pope John, those attending held a moment of silence for Sydney. With heads bowed, tears fell down the faces of many, as they had most of the day.
Doerr, like many others, stopped to hug many of his former teachers as they offered condolences to one another. All of them feeling the same pain and sharing similar memories of Sydney.
“I’m praying for the Loofes,” Doerr said. “Sydney always cared about others more than herself, and I will continue to pray for them.”
Gregory said the outpour of support has left him in awe, especially as people stepped up to help with the benefit. The idea itself stemmed from staff and was welcome with open arms as many volunteered to help and donate items. And then more items were added for sale and auction to raise even more money.
“It’s not a coordinated thing. It’s everyone taking initiative on their own and using their talents and interests to help the family out,” Gregory said. “We had a lot of joint things going on for the Loofes, and hopefully we can come together to help them out.”
Gregory commended the neighboring schools and communities, as well. From the EPPJ fans for turning out in groves to support the family to Creighton planning a fundraiser for their game on Friday with the Warriors.
The best part, Gregory said, is how the fundraisers have come about.
“I think that’s the biggest thing overall, and I think people have done it naturally. It hasn’t been a top-down thing,” he said. “It’s been a genuinely community-based, a community-led kind of feel. It’s been great to see and witness all of the support.”
That support has been almost overwhelming for the Loofe family, who have said little publicly throughout the entire search. The support, they said, is simply incredible and more than they could have ever asked for.
“On behalf of our family, I would like to thank all of you — all of the people who made the pins, the fliers, gotten the word out on social media, all of the support our family has received,” George Loofe said.
As the investigation moves forward, more hard times lie ahead. But Gregory said the community and the school will continue to wrap their arms around the Loofe family. They will move forward together.
“You have your hard times, but you persevere and make it through. And you’re better together,” he said.