Inspired By an Act of Kindness, Nashville Mom Starts Braiding Hair to Boost Kids' Confidence

After posting on Facebook offering to braids kids' hair for free, Brittany Starks has worked with dozens of children and plans to start a nonprofit to do even more

Brittany Starks
Photo: Courtesy Brittany Sparks

Before the school year started, Brittany Starks was gifted a backpack full of supplies for both of her children. She had just moved out of her townhouse and was staying with her mother while waiting for her new home to get move-in ready. Everything she owned was in storage.

"My daughter, she grows so fast, and she didn't have anything to wear to school. I'm like, 'Oh, I don't get paid until Friday.' I didn't know what I was going to do," says Starks, a 29-year-old Nashville mother. "We had just moved. I spent all my money on trying to get everything moved out of the home, and then everything was in storage, and I literally just did not have any money left."

The well-timed and thoughtful gift of backpacks full of school supplies and new school clothes for her daughter Ceniyah, 9, and son Cayden, 7, from a family friend inspired Sparks.

"Knowing how that made me feel, I decided, 'What can I do to give back?' " she tells PEOPLE.

Brittany Starks
Courtesy Brittany Sparks

On August 4, she posted on Facebook offering to braid hair for kids of single parents — like herself — free of charge.

"I know how hard it is," Sparks, who has professional experience braiding hair, says. "Then I realized that we are in a pandemic, and it's not only single parents that need help. I opened it up to any struggling parents."

She wanted to help out parents financially — but she also wanted to braid hair to boost kids' confidence and self-esteem as they headed back to school in person.

"I know how my daughter feels when she gets her hair done," Starks says. "It boosts her confidence, and it just makes her feel good about herself. She has an awesome day afterward."

Brittany Starks
Courtesy Brittany Sparks

She thought maybe five or seven kids would respond to her braiding offer. Instead, she had about 50 requests.

In response, Sparks launched a GoFundMe campaign to help cover the costs for enough hair supplies to serve everyone interested. Starks asked for $15,000 and to date has raised nearly $42,000.

When she made her original offer, Starks worked three jobs: A patient representative at a doctor's office, a receptionist at a med spa, and braiding hair on the weekends. Now, she's braiding hair full time. And devoting the rest of her time to launching a nonprofit she plans to call A Twist of Greatness, which will hold monthly hair-braiding events.

As part of her nonprofit, in addition to braiding hair, she hopes to partner with tutoring companies to help kids who fell behind during the pandemic's distance learning. She also hopes to partner with the literacy foundation her sister started that gives out free books. And someday, she'd like to offer school supplies too.

Brittany Starks
Courtesy Brittany Sparks

"I'm just trying to help out the kids in the community," Starks says.

To date, she has braided almost 100 kids' hair for free. She's had parents from across the state — and even across the country — asking if she will travel to braid kids' hair.

The best part of braiding, Sparks says, "is the smiles on the kids' faces."

"It's putting a smile on their face. It's making them happy," she says. "That's what keeps me going."

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