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Children's Minnesota, Great Clips help kids reenter school

Great Clips salons are supporting kids with cancer and other serious illnesses transition from hospital to classroom.

MINNEAPOLIS — Your next haircut could go a long way. Right now, Great Clips salons throughout the Twin Cities and western Wisconsin are supporting children who have had cancer and other illnesses transition back to the classroom.

One such child is Eleanor, a soon-to-be second grader from the Apple Valley area.

"A little nervous but excited," the seven-year-old said of the upcoming school year.

Eleanor didn't spend much time at school last year due to a cancer diagnosis. She even missed the first day of first grade.

"Initially she was out of school for almost a year," her mom, Amanda, explained. "It's a kidney cancer and it had metastasized to her lungs and near her spine."

The tumors were large, but after surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation,  Eleanor and her family are now sharing good news.

 "We just had stable scans on Aug. 18 so we are in a good spot," Amanda said.

Even before this, back in spring, Eleanor made a brief return to school and Children's Minnesota provided a child life specialist to help her transition from hospital to classroom.

"They came out to the school and did a full PowerPoint … and spoke about coming back to school and who Eleanor was … and they had an actual countdown for when she'd return," Amanda said. "I definitely think it helps because, that way, Eleanor doesn't have to explain every single time to each child."

Joy Johnson-Lind is senior director of Child and Family Services with Children's Minnesota.

"It's almost like a myth buster," Johnson-Lind said. "Some kids may have questions about is 'X' diagnosis - is that contagious?"

She said child life specialists speak to school communities in non-medical, plain language to help them understand. Discussion levels vary for each child returning to school.

"It really empowers them to share with their classmates what they want to share and how they want to share it," Johnson-Lind said.

To support the school reentry program, Great Clips salons in the Twin Cities and western Wisconsin are running a Cut-a-Thon, donating a portion of proceeds from every haircut. 

Great Clips franchisee Regina Finkelstein started the fundraiser 30 years ago.

"It's a huge milestone, something I'm very proud of," Finkelstein said. "I'm a realtor also and I had a client that had a child with cancer … So we did a little Cut-a-Thon back then. We made $8,000 and I took it to the head of oncology at Minneapolis Children's."

To date, they've raised 1.7 million dollars. Amanda sayid she's grateful for that community support.

"It's been easy because of Children's - easier - but it's still been a little hard," Eleanor said.

"Of course," Amanda said. "Exactly."

The Cut-a-Thon runs through Friday, Sept. 1. There is also another way to donate while at participating salons. Through Sept. 8, customers can purchase and sign a paper backpack that Great Clips will hang up in the salon. 100% of proceeds go toward Children's Minnesota's school reentry program.

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