KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When students prepare for a fresh start at school next week, one organization hopes to give them a fresh cut. The Know Joey Foundation will host its annual "Fresh Cut Fresh Start" event on Sunday in the 18th and Vine District.
As volunteers pass out school supplies and host games, barbers will be on hand to give free haircuts at the 180V Barbershop. It's an initiative founder Joey Thomas started back in 2006.
"I would hope we all understand the importance and the type of effect that a haircut has on an individual when it comes to building up their confidence and really getting their minds together," Thomas said. "You know that you're looking good so now you can concentrate on other things."
Thomas originally started the Know Joey Foundation as an entrepreneur and development program for young men, but over the years, it has taken on a life of its own. The foundation partners with local businesses to host the event and challenges the community to give back to its youngest members.
"It's our way to challenge people to, for lack of terms, ball out for our kids," Thomas said. "On a Saturday night, people usually find time and entertainment at a club or at a party, balling out, per say. Well, meet us at Walmart, we are going to throw everything in a basket."
While the event leaves a positive mark on the community, it hasn't always been a positive experience. Thomas recalls a time when even he felt discouraged, but knew he couldn't stop.
"We had a year we did it and somebody had put a hole in my wall," Thomas said. "I was missing some CDs and DVDs, somebody had taken the lotion out my bathroom and I was like, 'Man, I'm going through all of this. I feel like giving this thing up. They're not really appreciating it.'"
The turning point came when he saw a teenager preparing to get his haircut and asked him how long it had been. Thomas said the teen told him he hadn't had a haircut since the year before at Fresh Cut Fresh Start.
"When he said that, I felt like crap. Here I am trying to crack jokes and this kid is having one of the best days of his life. He's enjoying himself and more importantly, he's able to be in a position to come get this haircut," Thomas said. "He reminded me at that moment that this thing is important."
In the beginning, Thomas not only had to convince himself, but also his critics. When he first opened his barbershop near 39th and Indiana, people questioned why he would want to invest in an area known for criminal activity.
"For me, I didn't necessarily take offense to the question, but I didn't see it the way that they saw it. I saw a community that was rich in love, rich in support and that was rich in a lot of areas that might not have been rich monetarily," Thomas said.
He hopes to level the playing field for many kids on Sunday with backpacks, calculators and other school supplies. The event will also have educational zones, games and food. The event will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Parents are encouraged to pre-register for their child's free haircut and school supplies. Click here to do so.