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Anthony Barr Entertains, Encourages During Visit to Jeremiah Program

Posted Oct 28, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS — Anthony Barr continued his support for single moms and their children on Tuesday by visiting the Jeremiah Program’s Child Development Center.

Barr visited rooms of infants, toddlers and preschoolers for an afternoon of games, reading stories and going through an obstacle course. Barr not only encouraged the young people through the obstacles, he also conquered them.

The Vikings linebacker entertained the young people while reading children’s books to the classes. At 6-foot-5, Barr was a spectacle seated in a chair barely off the classroom floor, his folded knees near the height of the toddlers’ heads as he read a book about individual differences.

“I’ll be honest, I came in and was kind of tired and lethargic, and they woke me right up. They were fun,” Barr said. “Infants, then toddlers and moved on to the preschoolers, and they were like 25 years old, had full vocabulary and were full of energy.”

Barr launched his Raise the Barr Foundation with his mother, Lori Barr, this spring. They are raising money to provide access to higher education for single moms and impact their children.

“It’s pretty important. It’s something that we lived through and something that is close to us,” Anthony said. “We want to provide some kind of opportunity or some type of light in the lives of those that aren’t as fortunate. The position that we’re in now gives us the opportunity to come back and put a little smile on a couple of kids’ faces.”

Lori found out she was pregnant with Anthony when she was 19 years old. She moved from Indiana back home to California where she received help from her family members.

Others don’t always have that kind of support, however, and that’s where organizations like Jeremiah Program step in to help.

“It’s a really special opportunity for us to be able to partner with Jeremiah Program,” Lori said. “They do such amazing work in supporting single moms in so many areas of their lives.

“We’ve kind of come full-circle,” she added. “Not that long ago, 20 years ago, we were doing the same thing. We didn’t have this wide circle of support, but we did have my family, so to be able to come here with my son, having walked that journey with him is really special. It’s really fun to see these kids and moms and have this experience with them.”

Jeremiah Program was founded and is headquartered in Minneapolis, where it houses 38 women and 45 children. Jeremiah Program also has locations in St. Paul; Fargo, North Dakota; Roxbury, Massachusetts; and Austin, Texas.

Debra Brown, Child Development Center Program Manager, said the visit by the Barr family was a treat for the young people and encouraging for the moms.

“I think their story is similar to a lot of our families, and I think that is very inspiring for our moms to see that and for our children as well,” Brown said.

Moms with a child under 5 are able to enroll in Jeremiah Program, which provides residential facilities for 38 families and childcare to 45 at the Minneapolis location. Brown said the moms participate in a 16-week empowerment course that helps identify their strengths and builds relationships.

“We help them kind of maneuver through the county systems and resources that are there for them,” Brown said. “Sometimes it’s hard. It’s very difficult, so it’s having that support to get through them.

“In the early childhood program, we want them to know what quality childcare looks like and what they should be expecting,” Brown added. “They’re going to be advocating for children the rest of their lives, and we want them to be empowered to do that. This is very important. Sometimes they’ve been in positions where it’s very difficult for them, and they don’t feel very empowered. That’s something we want to instill in them and work with them. They do have it.”

Anthony said he was about 10 or 12 years old when he fully understood the challenges that Lori was overcoming and the sacrifices she made to give him great opportunities.

“She brought me into this world, so I owe her so much,” Anthony said. “To put me in positions that she’s been able to put me in, starting when I was a little kid running around and putting me in good schools and making sure I was staying in my books, she did a good job of raising me given the circumstances, so I’m very appreciative of her.

“When I kind of figured out, ‘OK, she’s putting in a lot of work and is doing so much, now it’s my turn. I’ve got to do my part to pull my own weight,’ ” Anthony said. “It really motivated me to be as successful as possible. All of the success that I’ve had up to this point wouldn’t have been possible without her, so it’s just kind of my way of saying thanks.”