GREAT FALLS — The owner of Man Cave barber shop, Victor Padilla, is back, delivering free haircuts for students headed back to their first day of school. The annual ‘Hands Up 4 Students’ event has grown exponentially over the years and this year, it’s bigger than ever.
“We've been able to make the event bigger and better every single year. As my career gets bigger and better, it's such a blessing,” says Padilla.
Starting in his backyard, Padilla has now expanded his office on First Avenue South to accommodate more customers. On Sunday, he took full advantage of the new space, employing his hair-cutting friends to expedite the process.
Once again, free BBQ was provided but the addition of a bounce-house and DJ were new this year.
Once again, school supplies were prioritized. Hundreds of dollars in glue, markers, crayons, scissors, journals and other gear were given away for free. On top of that, more than 200 backpacks were donated.
Victor’s childhood friend Michael Mattern played a large role in acquiring the resources.
“Me and Victor, we've been friends for a really long time since we were kids. We both kind of finally got in the positions where we can help our community, and we have exploded and grown exponentially. And so, just going from working a working class job, blue collar job, to be able to, finally have the means to give back to people is amazing,” says Mattern.
Victor’s past wasn’t always pretty, and he’s overcome some major hurdles in his life, but his perseverance and passion has carried him to the other side, better than ever.
“Ten years ago, I would have never thought I'd be where I am today because I was in such a dark place then, compared to where I am now. So if I could tell myself anything, it would be to stay focused and don't lose track of my potential,” says Padilla.
A line down the block reinforced the communities’ appreciation for Padilla’s charitable contributions.
For Victor, it’s that support that fuels him. Probably more so than anyone realizes. To that note he says, “The vision is always the vision unless you make it something that's more than a dream. So I always want my community to back me, just like I would back my community.”
Among the organizations/people that participated in the event:
- Linda Michaels Salon and Spa
- Tracy's Family Diner
- Street Burgers
- Twenty Past 4
- My Other Brother - M.O.B
- Coca Cola Great Falls, MT
- Treasure State Hydrate, LLC
- Lets Bounce Inflatables
- Ken and Chris Berg Bread Company
- DJ Reaper
- Donors who donated school supplies.
- Guest Barbers Hector and Alex.
- Numerous volunteers as well.
- Bad behavior at Yellowstone National Park
- Gun-toting man near school arrested
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This isn't the first time Padilla has done this - he began in 2018 by giving free haircuts in the Parkdale community in an effort to boost the self-esteem of children, and also hoping to inspire them.
At the time, he explained to MTN News: “I was working at the Montana Club at that time and the Sheriff’s coroner came to me,” said Padilla. “She sat me down and she said, ‘At six o’clock this morning, your son passed away.’”
In 2013, Padilla’s one-year-old son Riley died and Padilla was left searching for a way to fill that hole in his heart: “I pretty much coped with it by using drugs and negativity and running from the cops and getting into it with the cops and just being a rebellion.” Not long after that, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for assaulting a police officer, but that’s when things started looking up.
“I made a self-choice to say, ‘You know what? I’m going to get out of prison, but I’m not going to enter the community until I’m ready to enter it.’”
Now he’s being the change he wants to see in Parkdale—a low-income housing complex.
“I’m out here to prove all those guys wrong and say, ‘You know what, that’s all I knew until I made something else,’” Padilla said. “You will always stay the same if you don’t decide to change. I decided a long time ago that that’s not the life that I want. That’s not the life I want for my community, that’s not the life I want for my children, that’s not the life that I want to include my wife in.”
By being a role model for the younger generation, he hopes they’ll never go through what he did, and that they’ll ask for help if they’re struggling.
“You just got to reach out. Somebody will grab your hand. But if you don’t reach out, nobody is going to know you need help.”