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story.lead_photo.caption Joel’s Salon co-owner John Reeves (standing) and his husband, stylist Taylor Harris, support and volunteer at the Well-Being Salon where families and children staying at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas can get a shampoo, haircut and blowout. The salon provides a much needed service to families in a comfortable environment when they are away from home for long periods of time. - Photo by Cary Jenkins

Sometimes it's just nice to lean back in a salon chair and be taken care of with a soothing shampoo, fresh cut and style, and have a friendly stylist to talk to. That's especially true for those in the stressful situation of being away from home while a child is in the hospital.

The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas, which offers a "home away from home" for families of critically ill children being treated in Little Rock, also offers a little something extra to families staying at the house -- the Well-Being Salon.

The salon -- recently upgraded with some glitz and glam including soothing blush-colored paint on the walls, faux fur and rose-gold sequined pillows, mirrored storage cabinets and fun artwork -- was the idea of Wes Wooden of Modern Salon Services, who died in March. He helped raise money to turn what was originally planned as a storage room into a salon, furnished it and organized the first volunteer hairdressers.

The staff at Joel's Salon were among the first to volunteer and continue to do so at the salon. Co-owner John Reeves says when Wooden decided to help build the salon, they started hearing about it on social media and decided to donate products, time and services. The salon encourages staff members to volunteer, and currently nine of their stylists have spent a Monday volunteering their time and talents.

"It's very rewarding," Reeves explains, saying stylists often are anxious before volunteering the first time but come back and tell stories about their good experiences. "For a first-timer it puts it into perspective as to what's really going on here -- what the Ronald McDonald House is. They show a greater appreciation and understanding that their time was well spent."

Taylor Harris, a stylist at Joel's Salon who is Reeves' husband, often volunteers and admits he was nervous about becoming emotional or crying the first time he volunteered and says he did after he left. "It kind of changed me," he says. "It made me feel good about myself, about helping others -- like I was needed."

Just like any salon, laughter and chatter can be heard coming from the room, says Janell Mason, executive director of the house on the campus of Arkansas Children's Hospital. But sometimes, there are also tears from client and hairdresser as stories are shared. "It is a special time when the caregiver, sometimes stretched to their emotional limits, can be cared for. They leave rejuvenated, uplifted and smiling."

Reeves says staff members will share stories that really tug at their heartstrings and the stylists realize how fortunate they are and how "this one little day -- this Monday -- can make such a difference."

"You know how people say hairstylists are 50 percent hairstylist, 50 percent therapists?" he says. "They [the residents] come in and let themselves open up. Sometimes this is the only time people have to sit and not worry about anything for an hour. So when you hear those stories it makes you grateful and more willing to do more."

"That's sort of how it escalated," he explains about the volunteers from Joel's. "When people kept coming back in the salon and telling their stories, more people caught interest and wanted to volunteer."

Harris says it's about trying to make the residents feel better about themselves because they can be at the house weeks at a time while their children are hospitalized. He recalls a mother and daughter that came in and he cut and styled the mother's hair.

"They came back because the little girl really wanted her hair cut too. I remember when I left she was still down at the front desk parading around."

At Joel's, Harris says he sees clients every 30 minutes, but at the Well-Being Salon he reserves an hour with each person so there is plenty of time for talking. Normally not very outgoing, he's different when working, he says. "When I'm behind that chair, I open up. I'm here to make you feel better."

"We are beyond grateful for the time, care, concern and wonderful services of stylists who volunteer to provide comfort to our families in this manner," Mason says. "I hope they know the lasting impact they have on these individuals.

"We hear the happy stories from families who say they can't believe they had their hair professionally cut for free, how they loved having their hair shampooed and that they received free hair products," she adds. "It is such an uplifting experience for them."

"I've heard a lot of the staff come back and say that they didn't realize how much it would affect the families coming here," Reeves says. "They think I'm just going to come here and give haircuts. Well, that small amount of time affects that family and that situation much more than they realize it's going to."

He says stylists often go back to Joel's saying something like, "Oh, my goodness, this lady sat down in my chair and just broke down and cried and we ended up laughing and then we talked. I didn't realize that my talent that I do every day can make someone feel like that."

"When they get an opportunity to meet someone new and hear what they've gone through and go through that whole circle -- that range of emotions -- then they see what they are capable of as far as talent and how it can make a family's day," Reeves says. "That goes back to great stylist, great therapist."

Photo by Cary Jenkins
John Reeves (right) and his husband, Taylor Harris, are supporters and volunteers at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas and with the Well-Being Salon. “What the stylists give our families is the gift of time, their talent and words of encouragement,” says Executive Director Janell Mason.

High Profile on 07/22/2018

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