ONTARIO – Snippets of hair fall to the ground at a makeshift barber shop in the Ontario Elks Lodge. Heads are buzzed, bangs trimmed, and mirrors held up to fresh ‘do’s and toothy smiles. It’s back-to-school haircut day for K-12 students – and it’s all free.
Held every year since 2018, barring a year off from the pandemic, “Every Child Deserves to Look and Feel Good” partners with local barbers to provide free haircuts for local kids. The event was started by Veronica Mejia, owner of VM Barber in Payette, Idaho, in 2018.
“We saw there were kids that didn’t have an opportunity to get that fresh haircut and feel good, and they weren’t happy with how they looked on the first day of school,” said Jose Mejia, Veronica’s husband.
Now, he says, kids leave the room so happy they’re jumping up and down.
Each year, the event serves over a hundred kids from all over the Treasure Valley. Originally hosted in Veronica’s barber shop, it’s since outgrown the barber shop space and is now held at Elks Lodge in Ontario.
The barbers – all of which are volunteers – bring clippers, and the Mejias supply chairs, lights, and food for kids and volunteers while they wait. Mejia recalls serving hot dogs to a 2nd grader his first year, who thanked him and said it was the first warm meal he’d had in a while.
“It just broke my heart,” said Mejia. “It’s a simple hot dog to us and something we take for granted. These kids appreciate every opportunity that we can offer to them.”
Local youths also join the volunteer team, swooping in to sweep up hair or help serve food. And for the barbers, helping local kids look and feel their best is a matter close to their heart.
“Every barber there came from humble beginnings, and they understand the sacrifice parents have to go through,” said Mejia. “ It hits home to be able to impact our own community. Giving a child a reason to smile, and to be happy, just with a simple haircut – it’s amazing.”
EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM – Available for $7.50 a month. Subscribe to the digital service of the Enterprise and get the very best in local journalism. We report with care, attention to accuracy, and an unwavering devotion to fairness. Get the kind of news you’ve been looking for – day in and day out from the Enterprise.