Anthony Barr has been sidelined for the 2020 NFL season, but he hasn't lost a step in his efforts to impact the Twin Cities community.
The Vikings linebacker, who was added to Injured Reserve after suffering a torn pectoral muscle in Week 2, recently made a surprise "drop-in" to Jeremiah Program's Virtual Bullfrog Bash fundraiser.
Since being drafted by Minnesota in 2014, Barr has been a regular visitor to Jeremiah Program, which is near to and dear to his heart. The Minneapolis nonprofit's mission is to end the cycle of poverty for single mothers and their children two-generations at a time.
According to Jeremiah Program's website, "the program provides the opportunities and tools; the young mothers, most of whom come from challenging backgrounds and life situations, have to do the work."
Barr joined the virtual fundraiser that took place on Saturday evening.
"I'm so happy to be here tonight with all of you, and I'm proud to support – along with the Minnesota Vikings – the amazing families of the Jeremiah Program," Barr said. "I've seen firsthand as a supporter, a donor and a volunteer the impact that the Jeremiah Program has on these families."
Photo above from 2018 Jeremiah Program event.
He proceeded to share with viewers about the Vikings Social Justice Committee and spoke with gratitude about Vikings Owners Mark and Zygi Wilf.
"Our owners are very generous, and they gave us a certain amount of money to use and divvy up among impactful organizations. As the players, we chose Jeremiah as one of the organizations we'd like to support," Barr said. "Big thanks to the Vikings and our owners who made this announcement possible: Tonight, I'm excited and proud to share that the Minnesota Vikings Social Justice Committee would like to support the Jeremiah Program with a $20,000 gift.
"I would like to [share] that I'm personally making a $10,000 gift," he added.
Barr also encouraged anyone who was financially able to match his personal donation. In direct response to his challenge, two separate donors made spontaneous $10,000 donations.
Altogether, the evening raised more than $200,000, which far exceeded Jeremiah Program's initial Fund-a-Family goal of $120,000.
The money brought in will directly impact single mothers in Minnesota who are pursuing their education goals in order to provide a better life for themselves and their children.
As they say, the proof is in the pudding. One-hundred percent of Jeremiah Program graduates are able to afford safe housing. In addition, 77 percent of graduates from the past five years have significantly decreased reliance on public assistance, and 88 percent of children in Jeremiah's Child Development Centers are performing above age-appropriate developmental benchmarks.
Photo above from2018 Jeremiah Program event.
Jeremiah Program Executive Director Patty Healy Janssen assumed her current role early during the COVID-19 pandemic and just two months before the death of George Floyd while in police custody on Memorial Day.
Amid the tumultuous time, she has worked to ensure that Jeremiah Program is a significant support system for the community.
"I am more committed than ever to breaking down systems of injustice, oppression and racism to better serve our families," Healy Janssen told fundraiser attendees. "As Maya Angelou said, 'When we know better, we do better.' I will strive to continue to do better for our families. Thank you for joining us on this journey.
"Together, we learned from the moment, leaned into the movement to disrupt generational poverty two generations at a time, and we're emerging stronger as an organization and are serving more families than ever before," she later added. "We're taking what we learned from reacting quickly to the pandemic to put program structures and interventions in place to not only serve more families but also to have greater impacts for the families we serve."
Viewers of the virtual event heard a testimony from Asia, a single mother who experienced two-and-a-half years of homelessness before randomly happening upon a social media post advertising Jeremiah Program.
"It was just meant to be. It was meant for me to find that post," Asia said. "Ever since I've come to Jeremiah, it's given me and my children a lot of stability. It's allowed me to focus on school. It's allowed me to not have all the [extra stressors] – I don't have to worry about anything, really. Jeremiah's created a new life for me that I didn't think I'd be able to have until after finishing school."
Asia emphasized the program's impact for her young children, as well.
"My kids appreciate coming home and knowing this is their home. It's also allowed them to become more of who they are as individuals – which is super sassy and fun and loving," Asia laughed warmly. "Jeremiah promotes being who you are, not altering who are you because of your circumstances, which has been super awesome for us.
"Our glasses are half full, not half empty. We have a lot more to fill up – and when our cup overflows, we have so much to give to other people," she added. "That's the motto that I go with every day that allows me to keep pushing and having my kids looking up to me. I can't fail; I have to keep going on."