A Minnesota woman makes a bold statement for a great cause.


Mary LaBarre, 45, isn’t the kind of person who shies away from a challenge. 

LaBarre is District Manager of RedKing Foods, a company that manages Burger King restaurants in Minnesota. In 2008, Jim Reddin, owner of RedKing, was challenged by fellow Burger King franchisee, Mike Derosa, to shave his head for VFW Unmet Needs. Derosa offered to raise $500 to get Reddin to shave his head, but Reddin would accept nothing less than $5,000. More than $6,000 was raised, Reddin shaved his head and a new tradition was born—an annual event called "the Reddin Challenge."

Fast forward to 2011.

“It was time for members of the Mid-America Franchisee Association to decide who was going to step up the Reddin challenge,” she explained. “I thought maybe I could raise even more because I’d be taking off more hair!”

LaBarre volunteered for the job. Nearly a year later, the commitment was becoming real.

“I thought to myself ‘I either need to find a new job or do this!’” she said with a chuckle.

Then fate intervened.

“My 17-year-old son, Justin, came to me with the words no mother wants to hear: ‘We need to talk,’ ” she remembers. “He has a girlfriend, so my first thought was, 'oh no, I am going to be a grandmother!'”

But that wasn’t the case at all. Justin explained to his mother that he wanted her blessing to join the National Guard.

“It was a surreal moment,” LaBarre said. “I was so proud of him and what he was willing to do for his country. Shaving my head is the least I can do. Our military members protect us and let us sleep in peace at night. That is the real sacrifice.”

On July 31, the moment arrived. The donation pledges—some as high as $1,500—came in from every corner of the ballroom. In the end, more than $10,000 was raised for VFW!

A stylist from Sport Clips—another longtime VFW supporter—arrived with razor in hand.

“About halfway through, the razor burned out,” LaBarre said. “So I had a chance to get a little more comfortable with the baldness before it all came off.”

For her efforts, LaBarre has no regrets.

“Yes, my hair was once blond and cute, but I raised money doing the right thing for a great cause,” she said. “And besides, it takes me 30 fewer minutes to get ready every day!”

LaBarre was interviewed on VFW’s nationally syndicated talk radio show, The National Defense, which airs on Radio America and American Forces Radio. Listen online at www.thenationaldefense.org.

Over the last five years, Burger King franchise owners have raised more than $1.7 million to support VFW Unmet Needs.

Read more VFW success stories.



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