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'Silent superheroes': B.C. barber inspired by single mom and superhero gives back to kids in need

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Nanaimo -

Being a barber is not what Dave Lawrence dreamed of becoming when he was young.

"I was a weird little kid, reading comics," Lawrence smiles, before pointing out how the walls of his That 50’s Barber Shop include vintage pictures of Batman and Superman, plus a remarkable Pez Dispenser collection featuring all sorts of pop-culture characters.

If there was one superhero who young Lawrence would have wanted to be, it was Spider-Man.

"With great power comes great responsibility," Lawrence laughs, reciting Spider-Man’s iconic phrase.

Although when he was a child, Lawrence wasn’t always so responsible with his stuff.

"My mom would say, 'Where’s your coat?' And I would have left it at the playground," Lawrence recalls. "We couldn’t afford to get a new winter coat, so it was tough."

Not that Sandra let her boy know that. Lawrence says his single mom always did the best she could for him and others.

"She helped a lot of people," Lawrence says. "Even if she didn’t have the means to."

But when Lawrence grew up and started hearing countless stories from his customers about children growing up in poverty, he realized he could relate.

"There are so many kids that need help," Lawrence says, fighting back tears. "It’s sad."

So, in lieu of Spider-Man’s web shooters, Lawrence brandished his barbering tools and started offering back-to-school haircuts for free.

And if the kids drew him a picture or read him a story while it was happening, Lawrence also arranged to give them a backpack full of new school supplies, clothes, and books.

"The warmth you feel back from these very happy, very excited kids is amazing," Lawrence smiles.

That first year, Lawrence says he and his team of volunteers helped 75 kids. Now, after eight years, his Fresh Start program has grown to support more than 1,000 children a year.

"What he does is amazing," says Maegan Gibson, who started working with Lawrence because her work sponsored Fresh Start.

She ended up being so inspired, she now volunteers every year on her own time.

"[Dave] is definitely one of those silent superheroes," Gibson smiles. "He doesn’t ask for anything in return."

Lawrence says his only hope is that the kids have a positive, worry-free start to their school year.

"And I hope when they’re older they’ll remember that," he adds, his eyes welling.

Just like how Lawrence will never forget how Spider-Man instilled in him the responsibility to wield whatever power he may grow up to have, to help others.

"I think he’d think I was pretty cool," Lawrence says.

It's also like how Lawrence will never forget the mom, who may not have lived long enough to fully see how heroic her boy would be, no doubt couldn’t be more proud.

"I think my mom would be pretty happy," Lawrence smiles, fighting back tears. 

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