The 2020 wrestling season has officially come to a close, but it's not too late to celebrate the man who wrestling parents call the team's "number one fan." A bus driver and much more, he is Jim Barr.
Barr and his wife have both been driving bus in Canby for several years now. Barr drove school routes when he first started and has since switched to driving for trips. He intentionally requests to drive the same groups of students, including the wrestlers, on repeat so he can get to know them…and cheer for them.
"Jim is a fantastic guy," said Jeremy Ensrud, Canby High's wrestling coach. "Our parents and kids refer to him as our number one fan. He is at times our loudest supporter. Over the past two seasons he has gotten to know the names of the 50+ kids we have on the team. He was at the freshman districts…cheering just as hard as he would in a varsity tournament."
According to Barr, he's grateful to work for Student Transportation of America, a company that allows him to stay at the games and root for the kids instead of doing what they call "a drop and pick."
"There are a number of kids on every sport that their parents can't come because they're both working; and some may even be in the point where the parents, that isn't a priority for them," Barr said. "So by doing that, I can be an encouragement to maybe the kid that doesn't have anybody rooting for him."
Barr's kindness, and his loud cheering, have not gone unnoticed.
"He's such a great encourager and a steady, good role model," said wrestling parent Staci Sprague. "To show up and influence the younger generation and make a difference in their lives is pretty huge."
"He's onto something," she added.
Barr grew up in Portland and went to Clackamas High School before moving to Washington for many years. He and his wife have three kids, seven grandkids and three great grandkids.
As one would guess, he was highly involved in his own kids' lives, serving as a scoutmaster; soccer, basketball and softball coach; youth speaker; and youth pastor.
Eight years ago, Barr and his wife landed in Canby. They live on a piece of property across from a filbert farm and own a lawn maintenance company. They've slowed down on the lawn maintenance now though and drive bus to continue pulling in income.
Barr didn't set out to earn a number-one-fan award. It's just that his kids were grown, but he still loved sports and wanted to invest in the local youth.
"I'm a Christian, and to me, that's a part of life commitment: is with the good things you have, to pass that on in the Lord," Barr said. "So, I try to do that."
He had found himself drifted away from attending sporting events because he didn't know any of the kids. Now, bus-driving for trips has pulled him back in.
He's certainly earned the respect of students, parents and coaches alike. The girls' basketball team gave Barr a t-shirt, and the wrestling team gave him a baseball cap. But it seems Barr is just as fond of all of them. He couldn't say enough good things about Canby's coaches, calling them "top-notch."
As for the kids, he said he rarely has to clean up after them, and they always say, "thank you."
"We have such good kids," Barr said. "They're just awesome…That goes from Ninety-One to Carus; I've driven all of them. They're just a good bunch of kids. They're fun to be around. It makes it fun for me. I love my job because I really enjoy what I'm doing."
Barr made it a point to encourage other senior residents to get out and get involved in the community.
"There's a lot for older people to do if they look for it," he said. "Sometimes, it's just like anything, what do you enjoy doing and then see what you can do to help."
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