Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr remembers watching his mother, Lori, come home late at night, rubbing her feet after a long day.
Waking up at 6 a.m. and returning home after midnight routinely, Lori, a single mother, worked as a teacher’s aid and waiting tables while putting herself through college.
Those long days are what led Anthony to Minnesota.
After getting her degree and securing a salary job, Lori enrolled Anthony in a prep school in Los Angeles where he focused on academics and sports, earning a football scholarship to UCLA before becoming the ninth overall pick by the Vikings in 2014.
Understanding the hard work it took as a single parent to get a college degree, Lori and Anthony co-founded the Raise the Barr Foundation to help other single parents continue their education and attain a higher quality of life in both Los Angeles and the Twin Cities.
Putting in some legwork away from the turf, Anthony walked the runway of Under Review, the fifth annual Raise the Barr Foundation fundraiser at the Dayton’s Project Summer Terrace in downtown Minneapolis on July 15. The night’s events, a wine-and-whiskey tasting, auction and fashion show that was streamed online, raised over $100,000 as a recommitment to the mission of helping families break the cycle of poverty that Lori once did.
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Anthony was eager for this year’s fundraiser after last year’s event was held virtually amid the global pandemic a year ago.
“I missed interacting with people and socializing. I enjoy talking to people, learning people’s stories and sharing our story,” Anthony said in an interview with Heavy.com.
Those conversations shared are just a few of many held over the past two years as Raise the Barr continues to assess how to serve its scholars amid a global pandemic best.
Lori, who was welcomed back home when she became a single parent during her junior year of college, acknowledged the support system she had at the time and has strived to find more resources for single parents beyond helping cover tuition.
“We took a look at some of the critical issues that are plaguing families like our own, and one of those is generational poverty,” Lori said. “This work is rooted in our lives.”
Since 2016, Raise the Barr has supported 40 single parents, 19 of whom graduated, per Lindsey Young of Vikings.com. They’ve given more than $410,000 in scholarships and emergency grants in that time. Those emergency grants have helped parents cover childcare, housing, transportation and other underlying costs that can weigh on single-parent scholars.
“Having that stability is important. For my mom, the first step to financial freedom was having the ability to not always depend on my grandparents. That’s empowering,” Anthony said. “Once she got the degree and started advancing her career, I noticed I was able to stay in one home for longer than a year and a half. There’s a place you can call home and understand this the place we’re going to have Christmas morning for the foreseeable future.”
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During the trying times of the pandemic, Raise the Barr also received support from the NFL’s Inspire Change initiative, which highlights NFL players’ push to offer more opportunities to marginalized communities.
Raise the Barr was able to offer $500 emergency grants to all its scholars in January and February with the funding received from Inspire Change.
Since 2017, Inspire Change has contributed more than $195 million to causes backed by current and former players. The NFL committed $250 million over the next decade to aid social justice organizations as players look to continue to make an impact both on and off the field.
To learn more about Raise the Barr, view the full video interview below.