What an incredible blessing it is for me to open up my barber shop once a month and spend my day off giving children with special needs a free haircut. This has become the day I always look forward to! And I can certainly see God’s hand in how this all started.
I’ve been cutting hair for 20 years and am now fortunate enough to have my own shop. I’ve always tried to provide a supportive environment for my clients, where they feel comfortable sharing stories of struggle and triumph, stories about good days and bad. We’ve been blessed to have a pretty steady business where we are booked all day long. It’s important to keep on schedule so we don’t keep people waiting.
I had a few instances where people made appointments for their kids but didn’t specify they were children with special needs. Many kids with special needs deal with sensory overload, so a trip to get a haircut often leads to very stressful situations for the child, the parent and the barber. Those haircuts require a lot more time, so not planning additional time for these cuts would throw off my schedule for the rest of the day.
But my heart went out to these kids and their parents because of their unusual circumstances. As a barber, I saw the need for a place where children with disabilities are supported during a haircut, and an environment is created where parents or caregivers don’t have to explain their child’s behavior or apologize for something they may do or say.
So it was really on my heart to find a way to serve them. God planted the seed for an idea, but I’ll be honest: it took me 2 ½ years to commit to it and follow His prompting.
The idea was to set aside one Monday every month and open up my shop to cut hair for just children with special needs. The shop is usually closed on Monday, and it’s my day off, but it just felt right, like what I was supposed to be doing. I don’t charge any of these families anything for doing this. It’s my gift to them.
When I meet a child, I’m really meeting them where they are, and not where I want them to be. I provide the haircut, but the child receives dedicated time focused on them, a goody bag of items to take home, and the parents are able to rest knowing the needs for their child’s haircut are being met. I start by getting the child comfortable. I don’t want to be in a rush or the child to be frazzled. I allot about 30 minutes for each child and probably half of that is just getting them to feel at ease. I can see the hearts of these kids soften up before my eyes.
I call this Monday my Gifted Event. It’s a gift to everyone involved. This may sound hard to believe but getting their child a haircut in a supportive environment is such a relief to parents. I’ve had mothers burst into tears, had grandparents get emotional, and fathers just shake their heads in disbelief that this is really happening. I’ve had the opportunity to give over 300 haircuts to kids with special needs.
The biggest piece of this is my relationship with God. It’s the driving force of why I’m doing this. He has been so patient and so good to me. How can I not want to share this goodness that I have received? I’m doing my small part in being His hands and feet. I feel blessed to get to do it. And if my faith comes up in talking to the parent or the child, I’ll certainly share my Christian beliefs.
I went through some difficult times earlier in my life. I was running toward what I wanted to do rather than what God designed me to do. And I can see how God molded me to do this. I noticed as a young man that kids would gravitate toward me. And He gave me the talent of cutting hair.
One day, my mom took a video of me giving a haircut to one child with special needs, and it went viral on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook. I received thousands of messages from people all over the country, even other parts of the world. Some were wanting to “sponsor” me; to send me a little something for giving these free haircuts. So I put up a GoFundMe account in order to give them a way to do that. To my amazement, money started pouring in. Now, I feel led to take most of this money and expand this beyond haircuts. I want to build a support system around these special needs families and give them other things that would ease their burden. I want them to know they are seen, and help meet their unusual needs.