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Vikings & SCHEELS Gift Holiday Shopping Sprees

Anthony Barr picked up right where he left off.

The number on his jersey may be different, but the linebacker's heart is just the same. Less than a month after re-signing with the Vikings, Barr was right back in the community giving back.

On Dec. 5, the Vikings, SCHEELS and KFAN partnered in hosting a Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots event to support children in need this holiday season, ultimately collecting 18 large bins of toys. KFAN broadcasted live from 5:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., presented by UNRL.

In addition, the Vikings and SCHEELS teamed up to provide single mothers and their children $1,000 holiday shopping sprees.

Each mother was a recent graduate of Jeremiah Program, a Twin Cities nonprofit Barr regularly worked with during his first eight seasons in Minnesota. The organization's mission aligns closely with his Raise the Barr foundation, which helps support single parents pursuing postsecondary degrees.

View photos of Vikings current players and legend John Randle at SCHEELS hosting a Toys for Tots event.

Barr shopped with Nicole, who also was a Raise the Barr scholarship recipient, and her two daughters, Noelle and NiDaria.

"It was fun. We had a great time. We did some damage, for sure," Barr laughed, gesturing toward a full shopping cart. "I'm not very good shopping for 7-year-old girls. I thought I was going to have some likes, but they didn't like any of my suggestions, so I've got a little bit of work to do."

Though most of Barr's suggestions were met with polite declines from the sisters, he finally was successful with a cozy pair of slippers that looked like puppies. Noelle excitedly tried them on, while NiDaria asked, "Wait – do they have those in my size?"

"I mean, if you don't like those, we might need to chat," said Barr, who quipped he'd need to find some in his size. "The slippers were a hit."

Nicole happily looked on as her daughters selected new winter jackets, pullovers and socks. Noelle was especially excited to spot some Barbie-themed Crocs in her size.

With the help of Raise the Barr and Jeremiah Program, she received her bachelor's degree in nursing in May 2023, after initially graduating with her two-year R.N. degree in 2020.

"Raise the Barr was really, really important for me as a single parent going to school," Nicole said. "I was able to go through the majority of my schooling without having to take out financial aid for my classes, so that was really helpful for me, being able to work a little less so I could focus on studying and being with my girls."

Raised by a single mother himself, Barr has a passion for supporting parents working to ensure a better life for themselves and their children through education.

"These families are important to us. It's important for us to let them know they matter," Barr said. "It feels like I [never left Minnesota]. We picked up where we left off and didn't miss a beat.

"We had a great time," he added. "It took them a little time to warm up, the kids, and once they did – they got going, and we were tossing things in the cart right and left, and that's why we're here."

Nicole was among numerous Vikings fans who celebrated when Barr returned to the Vikings – but not only because of his on-field talent.

"Our family was really excited when we heard he was coming back to the Vikings, because we know him so much on a personal level – just how great of a guy he is, how helpful he is to the community and how much he loves kids," Nicole said. "Noelle was still in early preschool when he would stop by the Jeremiah Program, and he would always come and say hi to the kids and give them hugs, bring them treats."

Barr was one of seven Vikings who shopped with Jeremiah Program families.

Camryn Bynum, Harrison Phillips, T.J. Hockenson, Josh Metellus, Alexander Mattison (who teamed up with Hall of Famer John Randle) and Brian O'Neill also joined families throughout the day.

"Everything has been going up [in price lately], so this kind of event alleviates them of the stress and pressure of having to come up with extra finances," said Lorrhonda Byrd, Jeremiah Program Family Services Director of the Minneapolis campus. "They're loving it. They're loving the shopping sprees."

"I feel like it really humanizes the experiences between our JP moms and the Vikings, just the humbleness of the Vikings players, having natural conversations with the moms and the kids," Byrd added.

Hockenson spent the morning shopping with Amber and her 2-year-old son, who was fairly timid but perked right up when Hockenson pointed out some toy dinosaurs.

In addition to a few toys, Hockenson helped the mother and son each select new winter coats and boots to gear up for the slow-to-start Minnesota winter.

"There's things these families have to have for the winter months up here, and obviously the little guy had to have a little fun, so we had to find a couple things for him, the dinosaurs," Hockenson said. "It's just incredible to be able to help these kids out. It's a great holiday, and I'm thankful for every opportunity."

Barr shared Hockenson's enthusiasm for the event, especially when it comes to brightening the season for youth whose parents may be experiencing hardship.

"It's the holiday season. It's a time when you want to give back and allow families to experience the joy of Christmas," Barr said. "It's often a child's favorite time of the year, and they should be able to experience it the way you and I probably do – feeling loved, feeling like you're able to get things that maybe you normally wouldn't."

After helping Nicole and her daughters through the checkout lane, Barr autographed his No. 54 jersey with a personalized note and laid it across the top of an overflowing cart. He hugged the trio and wished them happy holidays, which was returned with plenty of smiles.

"It was really fun," Nicole said of the day. "A different experience because I've never been taken shopping, so it was a different experience not having to worry about looking at the price tags as much.

"It's just really important to show my kids there's more of a fun side to life, too. Not always having to worry about what we can afford and what we can do," Nicole added. "They're both very used to hearing from me, 'Hey, we have to wait for that until next week or the week after.' Being able to say, 'yes,' to a lot of things that typically would be a 'no' was really, really great."