By Lana Shovlin/Photos by Terry Farmer
When I recently met with Sherry Barr in a secluded corner of a local coffee shop, the first thing both of us commented on was how strange it was that we couldn’t shake one another’s hand. We briefly spoke about how surreal life feels at this bizarre time. Knowing that she had a trip planned the morning after our interview, I asked her if she was afraid to fly, being in the midst of a global pandemic. Before answering my question, Sherry took a sip of her hot chocolate and I could tell she was weighing her words carefully.
“You know,” she said quietly, “when your husband unexpectedly passes away, the idea of dying doesn’t seem quite so scary.”
Of course, Sherry is referring to her late husband of 24 years and former Sangamon County sheriff, Wes Barr, whose sudden death from a heart attack last October left many people shocked and heartbroken. As I listened to Sherry recall the day that Wes died, I couldn’t help but be impressed by her strong faith. Often times, when something tragic happens, we become jaded, but Sherry has done the exact opposite.
Before Wes died, he was well-known for his charitable work in Sangamon county. It was important for Sherry to continue his legacy, but she wasn’t exactly sure how to go about doing that. She found herself praying for an answer and talking to friends about what she could do. The more people she spoke with, the more people offered her their services. Before she knew it, Sherry had a team of highly skilled friends who had come together to help her create The Heart of Wes Barr, a new foundation that will use donations raised through local fundraisers to help aid area charities that were near and dear to Wes’s heart.
When I asked her about the mission, Sherry was quick to mention how much Wes loved the people of Sangamon County and how much the people here loved him. Because of this, it is crucial to her that the foundation uses its funds to aid local veterans’ organizations, as well as social service, animal protection and law enforcement agencies with special projects. It’s also important to her that something meaningful comes from Wes’s untimely death, so she has partnered with the Prairie Heart Foundation to create the Raising the Barr on Heart Health Fund, whose goal is to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease through community education initiatives.
As our interview came to a close, I asked Sherry what to expect from The Heart of Wes Barr. A big smile spread across her face and she said, “Wes loved to have fun, so our goal is to make everything surrounding this foundation fun.”
To kick off the foundation’s fundraising efforts, Sherry is planning a fundraiser at Boondocks with food, a cash bar and 50/50 tickets for sale. Three bands — Collective, Mike Burnett and the Suns and Lick Creek – will provide the soundtrack for what is sure to be a bittersweet, yet festive evening. Instead of a cover charge, guests will be asked to leave a donation of their choosing in an envelope at the door.
Originally, Sherry hoped to hold the event on May 15 to coincide with Wes’ first heavenly birthday. However, the current situation with COVID-19 has put those plans on hold for the time being and a new date has not yet been chosen.
To find out more about The Heart of Wes Barr and a date for the fundraising event, visit the following accounts:
Facebook: The Heart of Wes Barr
Website: coming soon
Lana Shovlin is a Springfield communications professional and writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org