- Associated Press - Thursday, August 20, 2015

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) - Several little girls sat in chairs around the hair salon, their long hair clumsily pulled back and braided by hands unaccustomed to this dexterous work.

Tatum Lynn, 4, has had her hair braided before, so she sits down holding a comb and singing a song known only to her. Suddenly, an unfamiliar sensation pinches at the back of her head.

“Ow,” she says, interrupting the lyrics of her song.

“Oops, I’m sorry, we pulled a hair,” her father Colin says.

The simple exclamation of momentary pain followed by her dad’s apology is repeated two or three more times before Tatum’s hair is finally done. Colin looks at his handiwork with an expression somewhere between pride and amusement and has his daughter turn around to show everybody else.

“There, we’re going to have mom take a picture and then she’s gonna take it out,” Colin says.

But Tatum, even with the few awkward tugs on her hair, loves the time she just spent with her dad.

“No, don’t take it out,” she says.

The father and daughter combo are one of a large turnout of girls and their dads at Siren Salon in Gillette, spending time together in a way that many of them had not before. All around the room are daughters of many ages getting their hair pulled, twisted and finally braided by their dads. It’s a time they all enjoy despite - or maybe even because of - the awkwardness.

And the date night also has the added bonus of helping to give a young Filipino boy a family and a home he’s never had.

Scott and Julie Rankin have been involved in Summer of Hope during all three years of its existence in Gillette. They have seen orphaned children from the Philippines and the Democratic Republic of the Congo find families with loving parents, brothers and sisters in Gillette.

The 11-year-old boy they are going to bring home was in Gillette as part of the Summer of Hope last year and the Rankins took him in. The parents and their four daughters all love him and want to give him the home and family life he’s never had.

“We just love this opportunity to bring someone less fortunate here to adopt,” Scott Rankin said.

“I’ve always had a heart for adoption,” Julie added. “It’s something we’ve talked about. Adoption’s expensive, but it’s worth it. (The kids) get to see what it’s like to live in a home.”

The Rankins’ four daughters - Alisa Costello, 23; Chloe, 12; Rylee, 11; and Lacie, 7, are all equally excited to bring their brother home.

“I’m really excited, because I’ve never had a brother before,” Chloe said. “He’s been at our house a couple times before. I taught him how to make a bracelet.”

The dads and daughters entered the salon and were immediately greeted with root beer floats and treats on one side of the room. On the other was a donation stand that had “J.R.’s” picture and several donation options. The process of adoption costs about $25,000, so the Rankins said they hope to raise as much of that as possible during the event.

Once getting past the opening, they get to the style booths and get their hands into a bunch of hair that many of them don’t know what to do with. But it’s fun and for a good cause.

“It’s always a good thing to help,” said Colin Lynn, whose wife Tara is a good friend of Siren Salon owner Terry Clark . “We wanted to help. It’s a crooked braid, but it’s still a braid.”

In the time Summer of Hope has been in Gillette, 17 kids have come from orphanages in the Philippines and the Congo. Fifteen are now either in a home or families are in the process of adoption, Julie Rankin said.

The idea to raise money to bring J.R. home to the Rankin family had to include families, because that’s what’s important, Julie said.

“We wanted to do something family oriented,” she said. “Not often is there something for dads to do with their daughters, and they don’t know how to fix hair. So many dads are hands-on nowadays and need to know how to do hair. And the little girls love it.”

So Clark, the owner of Siren Salon and a good friend of the Rankins, became involved. The idea is so good that she wants to make it an annual event for some sort of charity.

“It’s something we can do every year from here on out,” she said. “It’s something we want to continue to do and give it to the Wounded Warriors project. But if other people need help, I am open to that, too.”

One dad and daughter couple in particular was the “overachiever of the night,” Clark said.

Thomas Martinez went in wanting to learn the toughest sort of braiding he could. So he attempted the Elsa braid from the 2014 Disney movie “Frozen” on his 6-year-old daughter, Elizabeth.

So with fingernails marked with a little dirt and grime rather than polish, he went in and spent about 15 minutes braiding Elizabeth’s hair, with Clark by his side every step of the way.

“This is not easy,” Clark said to those watching. “It’s a lot easier said than done.”

So finally, Elizabeth’s hair looked like Elsa’s from the movie and Thomas celebrated his achievement while some of the moms in the room gave praise for the impressive achievement of a first-timer.

“I didn’t come here to lose,” Thomas said. “Let’s take a picture of that and send it to mom.”

Like father, like daughter, Elizabeth was ready to dominate the fashion show that culminated the night. She walked through the curtain and showed off her braids for those watching. She then smiled and went back to her dad.

It was all about spending time as a family. The Rankins, six of them at least, stood watching. They looked over at the picture of the seventh member of their family, soon to join them.

He was smiling back.


Information from: The Gillette (Wyo.) News Record, https://www.gillettenewsrecord.com

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