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Tubby's gone, charitable commitment remains

Former University of Kentucky men's basketball coach Tubby Smith visited Big Blue territory Friday, and brought along a lot of green.

Smith and his wife, Donna, flew to Lexington from Minneapolis, where he now coaches at the University of Minnesota. The two were to attend a fund-raiser at Millennium Farms on Paris Pike on Friday night, aimed at generating up to $200,000 for the Tubby's Klubhouses program — with a new spelling to honor the late Bill Keightley.

The program helps youngsters get access to computers.

Also Friday, the Smiths handed a donation to United Way of the Bluegrass, raising their total gifts to that organization over the past decade to $1 million.

They are the first philanthropists ever to donate that much money in the history of United Way of the Bluegrass, officials said.

Kathy Plomin, president of United Way of the Bluegrass, noted that the Smiths committed to donating $1 million a decade ago, and "they have lived up to it."

"Thank you for being an example of how to live the right life," she told the Smiths during a brief news conference at Blue Grass Airport.

The Smiths' contributions to United Way, plus their financial support of Tubby's Klubhouses, mean they have generated more than $4 million for 120 charities around the area, according to Van Florence, who directs the Tubby Smith Foundation.

"It certainly wasn't me, it was all the folks who have been willing to donate, all the fund-raising and charitable giving," Tubby Smith said. "It's not easy, but it's something we do, something we believe in."

Greg Drake, director of Institutional Technology for Fayette County Public Schools, said almost 1,000 middle school students in Lexington have learned how to use computers, thanks in large part to the Tubby's Klubhouses program.

The clubhouse effort, which Tubby and Donna Smith launched in 2004, operates in conjunction with Dell computers' TechKnow program. Participating students learn how to take a computer apart, how to put it back together and how to use it. At the end of the program, they get to take the computer home.

According to Florence, the Smiths have raised about $200,000 in an escrow account to continue to support the clubhouse program.

Horseman Ro Parra, whose Parra Family Foundation is a key clubhouse program supporter, hosted Friday night's fund-raiser at his Millennium Farms. Parra said that if donations total $100,000, his foundation will match that amount, raising $200,000 for Tubby's Klubhouses.

Friday, Tubby Smith also unveiled the new logo for the program, in which the word clubhouse is spelled with a large and distinctive "K."

The non-traditional spelling is to honor Keightley, UK basketball's longtime equipment manager who died last April.

"I'm so proud that we can honor him in this way, and show respect for a man who has meant so much to so many people," Smith said. "He embraced me and helped me through some things. He had an impact on so many young people, not just the athletes who came through the basketball program."

Now, Smith is preparing plans for a Tubby's Klubhouses program in Minnesota.

Donna Smith said their contributions to United Way and Tubby's Klubhouses in Lexington essentially have completed their philanthropic work here, and that they now will focus their efforts in Minnesota.