By Christine Keeling
Kaitlyn Rinehart was excited and happy while she waited for her turn at the salon.
The sixth-grade West Branch student was one of 30 children age 6-16 who took part in the Angels For Kids Foundation’s second annual back-to-school event Tuesday at Casal’s Aveda Institute in Austintown.
Local kids received free haircuts, minifacials, makeup applications, massages, school supplies, gift bags and a new outfit for the first day of school.
“We do this because the first day at school sets the tone for the year,” said Shanyn Flesch, founder and director for Angels for Kids Foundation. “This helps them hold their head up high.”
The children who participated were sponsored by teachers or counselors, Emmanuel Community Care Center in Girard, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Children Services agencies. Casal’s Aveda Institute donated the services.
“I love it,” said Austintown Middle School eighth-grade student Laci Lopez before she headed off to get her makeup done.
Her once-curly hair was now sleek, shiny and straight.
She said she was nervous about going back to school, but planned to wear her new outfit today.
Flesch said Angels For Kids tried to personalize the outfits for each kid by asking which brands, colors or styles they like to wear.
“We want to make everything perfect for the first day,” she said.
“If I go to school, if I go to college, I can do this for myself,” is what Big Brother sponsor Al Davis said he stresses to Summit Academy seventh-grader Justin Wallace.
The day at the salon was a first for Justin, but he didn’t hesitate to say “yes” to a massage.
Afterward, he sat in the chair, eating pizza and cupcakes as more than 8 inches of hair fell to the ground.
“I noticed one thing,” said Justin, after a facial and a wash, “When I wash my hair now, my head gets cold.”
When Nathaniel Moore walked in, he looked shy and nervous.
An hour later, the fifth-grade Lincoln Elementary student headed to football practice relaxed and smiling with a new haircut and armful of gifts.
“I like it,” said Nathaniel. “It’s really fun and relaxing.”
His Big Brother sponsor, Tony Maffei, said he believes the makeovers give the kids a bright spot in their lives.
“This is really good for them,” said Maffei. “It’s something they’d probably never be able to do themselves.”
Lisa Argiro, Aveda Casal’s coordinator, said Angels For Kids is a wonderful organization and that Casal’s tries to help anyone who needs it.