Students trade tales for trims at Dubuque park

Courtney Holmes listens to Jeremiah Reddick, 9, as he reads while getting a free haircut from Holmes at the Back to School Bash on Saturday in Dubuque's Comiskey Park. 

Courtney Holmes listened over the buzz of a clipper to children reading books Saturday afternoon.

The local barber traded haircuts for stories during the second annual Back to School Bash in Comiskey Park.

"I just want to support kids reading," Holmes said.

Tayshawn Kirby, 9, of Dubuque, read from "Fats, Oils and Sweets," by Carol Parenzan Smalley. He regaled Holmes with tales from the top of the food pyramid, including the fact that the average person eats 150 pounds of sugar each year.

Before Tayshawn's brother, Titan Feeney, 10, took his turn in the barber chair, he told his brother the new look was fresh.

Kathleen Winfrey was surprised to learn of the swap. She said it was a perfect opportunity to have her nephews Tayshawn and Titan get a haircut without having to schedule an appointment and take them to a barbershop.

"I love it. It's good for our community," Winfrey said.

Anderson Sainci coordinated the Back to School Bash. The event was the result of collaboration between multiple community partners and nonprofit organizations.

"The idea is to connect people to people and people to resources," Sainci said, adding, "It helps all of us to reach our full potential."

More than 100 people learned about free resources and before- and after-school opportunities that help families prepare for the upcoming school year.

St. Mark Youth Enrichment gave away books during the event. Some of those books were read to Holmes, a barber at Spark Family Hair Salon.

"This is amazing. It's fabulous," said Beth McGorry, outreach coordinator with St. Mark.

She said it was neat to watch Holmes help young children sound out words they didn't quite know yet.

Caitlin Daniels, grade-level reading coordinator with the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, also helped struggling readers in the barber chair.

"It's great. All the kids, they want to have a good haircut to go back to school," she said. "They're paying through reading."

In addition to giving out books, St. Mark also registered people for the Apples for Students program. At least 1,300 children in Dubuque, western Dubuque County and East Dubuque, Ill., will receive backpacks full of school supplies.

McGorry said 30 registration forms were completed at Comiskey in the first two hours of the four-hour event.

Sainci, acting resource manager with the City of Dubuque, was pleased with the turnout.

"It's important that all kids are prepared and ready to start the school year," he said.

In Dubuque, the first full day of classes is Sept. 1.

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