A barber at City Cuts Barbershop in Kutztown gives free haircuts to children with autism.
Kutztown resident Frankel Antoine, 24, originally from Orange, New Jersey, and a graduate of East Stroudsburg High School North in Bushkill, Pa., created Fading Autism in December 2015 while a communications studies major at Kutztown University. He has been a licensed barber at City Cuts Barbershop since 2012.
A personal experience with autism motivates Antoine to help people diagnosed with autism. His little brother Amos, who is now 19, was diagnosed with ASD.
“I remember giving haircuts to my little brother,” he said. “I learned how something as simple as a haircut can change the lives of those diagnosed with ASD, by giving them confidence and a boost in their self-esteem.”
His goal is to help people diagnosed with autism and to spread awareness about autism.
“Fading Autism was created to fade away any insecurities a person on the spectrum may be feeling and inspire them to grow and be great,” said Antoine, who founded Fading Autism in December 2015 as his senior capstone project to conduct an autism awareness campaign. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications studies in 2015.
“I’m just happy to see that people are receptive to the program and they’re using it and I’m happy I can say I’m my brother’s keeper. That means we are all brothers and sisters here. We’re supposed to all have each other’s back. I want to help my brother and everyone like him. Everyone else with autism is my brother, too, so I’m just here to set an example because that’s what we are, a community so we’re supposed to help each other out,” he said.
Antoine is thankful to City Cuts Barbershop. Antoine’s non profit work connected him with City Cuts owner Jonathan Escueta. Learning that Antoine was cutting hair in the dorms, Escueta offered Antoine a job at his barbershop. Antoine got his barber’s license and began working at City Cuts in 2012.
“He has allowed me not only to use my degree but allowed me to be creative and help the community by using his platform,” said Antoine, calling Escueta a mentor and a big brother. “I’m happy that he allowed me to be creative in his establishment, allows me to give these haircuts in his establishment.”
Escueta said Antoine has started a wonderful opportunity with Fading Autism and supports him 100 percent.
“When he came to me with the idea, given that his brother is autistic, I was more than thrilled because the idea hit close to home. His heart fueled his passion for something near and dear and there was no way I wasn’t going to support it. He wants to help others like his brother, to create an experience in the barber chair like any other person would,” said Escueta who established City Cuts Barbershop in 2006 to provide urban haircuts.
Escueta believes in giving back to the community, in both Kutztown and Allentown.
“We do this primarily to motivate them with a visual experience of young barbers giving back. It’s pretty cool to see their faces light up from the experience because they have developed a connection with us as barbers.”
City Cuts provides free haircuts to Allentown youth for back to school and holiday events, at places like Sneaker Villa and Community Bike Works.
“More importantly, we give back to Kutztown because this is where our business is established. We cannot take from our town and not give back, it’s not how we run things,” said Escueta.
In the past City Cuts has given haircuts to the University students in the “Shave to Save” event, where money is donated for cancer research. Free haircuts are also offered to children at the Kutztown Community Block Party. In the barbershop, they are currently doing Pay-It-Forward and Books By Kids.
“Pay-It-Forward is pretty much a random act of kindness. We believe it will turn into a domino effect for strangers that we come across daily, being that clients are voluntarily buying someone’s haircut without having an interaction with them. We’re hoping to motivate others to do it for someone else,” said Escueta. “Books By Kids is a service that we feel is very important to kids 10 and under. During their haircut, they are encouraged to read (their own books or books donated by Kutztown Community Library) in the barber chair. This promotes public speaking at a very young age and also helps build confidence through our reading program.”
When their haircut is finished, City Cuts take $3 from the original hair cut price, to pay the child for their efforts, which essentially gives them $3 off their hair cut, to which they can use to either save or spend.
Taylor Kutz, youth librarian at Kutztown Community Library, was very excited to hear that City Cuts was interested in partnering with the library. City Cuts provided gift cards to their barbershop for the library Summer Reading Program, and in return the library donated books to the barbershop.
“I think what they’re doing is a wonderful idea and will have such a positive impact on the community. Not only are the men at City Cuts promoting reading, they are also encouraging kids to do so in public places,” said Kutz.
“I am beyond grateful for our clients, our community and most importantly the barbers at City Cuts. Frankel will do great things in the years to come with this amazing opportunity,” said Escueta.
Fading Autism recently became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, raising funds for Fading Autism events, haircuts and t-shirts. The organization spreads awareness about autism via social media.
“It’s a way for people to learn about what autism is because I feel as though autism is very prevalent today but no one’s talking about it,” said Antoine.
During every haircut at City Cuts, he talks about Fading Autism.
“It’s bringing more light to autism as a whole. That’s one thing I feel Fading Autism is doing, it’s promoting autism awareness,” he said. “Autism is prevalent in 1 in 55 babies being born today. It’s three times more likely to happen in boys than girls. I feel like the other question to ask is who is giving these guys haircuts? And is why I feel like Fading Autism can work. And it can be an important tool for families to use. One less headache for mothers to worry about.”
Antoine feels that most importantly, the free haircuts promote a positive mental outlook for children with autism.
“When I get a haircut, I feel a little better. I look in the mirror and say, ‘Yeah, I do look good.’ I don’t need anyone to tell me that. That’s the feeling I want to deliver to these kids,” Antoine said. “I want to deliver that look good, feel good attitude. A simple haircut, that’s what I’m trying to do. Fading Autism, fading away any insecurities for individuals with autism may be feeling and inspire them to grow and be great.”
The mother of a client, Kimberly Herman, said Fading Autism is amazing.
“I don’t know if you have any personal experience with Autistic kids, but haircuts are the worst. It is almost impossible to locally find a barber who will happily take kids with autism. Frank not only is more than happy to take these kids, but goes WAY above and beyond what he has to do. He comes in early to open the shop up so that it is a one-o-one experience. He takes his personal time to call to find out about the kids and literally enjoys getting to know about them. Above all, he does this for FREE. He only asks that you pass the word about the program. I have met so many negative people and businesses when it comes to my son and his Autism that I just felt like Frank deserves the recognition that he should be getting.”
Antoine feels Fading Autism has the potential to grow beyond Kutztown. He hopes to inspire other barbershops to do what Fading Autism is doing.
“Open your doors. Let’s give back to the people that don’t have a voice. Individuals with autism are very sensitive. They don’t like loud noises. They don’t like being in the spotlight. Someone has to speak up for them. I believe that’s what I’m doing.”
Fading Autism is sponsored by Kutztown University fraternity Tau Delta Phi, a service fraternity.
To become a sponsor, contact Antoine at email@example.com. Follow Fading Autism on Instagram and Facebook at Fading Autism. For more about free haircuts through Fading Autism, email firstname.lastname@example.org.