Katy Petersen knows that foster kids can be shy around strangers. So, when she spent her day giving them free back-to-school haircuts, she knew it might take a while for them to warm up to her.

But they did.

“Especially the little dudes,” she said, taking a break Monday between appointments. Sitting in a salon chair with a professional stylist working on them, the kids would watch their do’s take shape and smile.

The West End business, The Beauty Mark at 805 24th St. W., devoted the day to children in foster care, giving them free cuts and styles, lunch, school supplies and toys. The food and other goods were donated by local businesses like Albertsons, TOPZ Sandwich Company and Bold Beauty Supply.

Petersen is familiar with the challenges facing foster kids. Before becoming a stylist, she performed street outreach with runaway children through Tumbleweed and worked with foster youth at the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch. One of her own children spent time in foster care, she said, while she was struggling with a drug addiction.

“It’s really cool to see the smiles on their faces, because they look grateful,” Petersen said. “And it might be a bright spot in a really crappy week.”

Salon staff brought their own children in for the day to help set up food and to welcome kids. The Beauty Mark Salon was open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and gave 36 haircuts.

Ashley Sjolseth, owner of the salon, said she and her staff have done a handful of other charitable haircut days, mostly for homeless people, but this was the first for foster children.

“A lot of us are moms here in the salon, so one thing that we’re always aware of are children,” she said.

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