NEW YORK -- With more than half a million homeless people in the United States, it's not uncommon to pass someone living on the streets, especially in big cities. Although some may choose to walk in the other direction, Mark Bustos does not.Bustos is a successful hairdresser who typically charges
NEW YORK -- With more than half a million homeless people in the United States, it's not uncommon to pass someone living on the streets, especially in big cities. Although some may choose to walk in the other direction, Mark Bustos does not.
Bustos is a successful hairdresser who typically charges hundreds of dollars per session to a list of clients that includes some celebrities. But despite his busy schedule, Bustos always finds time to take his clippers into the city to offer free haircuts to members of the homeless community.
Giving free haircuts to those in need was something that Bustos started in 2012, when he noticed children living in the streets while visiting his family in the Philippines. Bustos wanted to help by giving them all free haircuts, so he rented a chair and a local barbershop and he had kids line up. After the reaction, he decided to bring his idea back home to New York.
"I didn't really realize how much of an impact I was going to make on them until I actually did it," Bustos said. "I realized that I can take my passion and love for what I do with me around the world and help people. I haven't looked back since."
The barber began cutting hair at 14 years old after receiving haircuts from his grandfather in his kitchen growing up. One day, Bustos asked his mother for his own pair of clippers, and he started practicing on his friends. Since that day, he has never worked another job.
Because of his impact on the community around him, the Yankees wanted to make sure that Bustos and his new foundation, Be Awesome To Somebody, was featured in the team's HOPE Week celebrations. The barber knew that the Yankees' organization was going to help set up an afternoon of haircuts on Friday at the Harlem YMCA, but he had no idea what was actually in store.
"In this city and in many cities, homelessness is a serious issue," Yankees director of media relations Jason Zillo said. "Living in Manhattan, I see it every day. I think most people, when they see someone who is homeless, their first instinct is to look the other way or walk the other way. And what Mark does is the complete opposite. Not only does he see them, but he touches them and he walks towards them and he tries to improve their lives. He's an inspiration, and that's why we're doing what we're doing today."
As Bustos was outside giving his first haircut of the day, Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres, Domingo German, Gary Sanchez, Ronald Torreyes and catching coach Jason Brown came down the street to surprise the barber.
"At first I was surprised. I was like, 'Oh my gosh, they're here.' I had no idea they were going to come," Bustos said. "But at the same time, I wasn't surprised, because working with any awesome organization, it's important to be inspiring not just on the field, but also off the field. And the Yankees are showing a really good example of how they can give back to the community and inspire people, especially the youth, who look up to them the most."
Bustos and the Yankees then went inside, where four chairs were lined up for Bustos and three other barbers to give new hairdos to those at the YMCA. The players quickly hopped in to assist.
"It's definitely very exciting to be able to just hang out with the people here and spend some time with them," Sanchez said. "I grabbed some clippers, and I cut a little bit of hair. It's exciting."
Torres grabbed a brush to wipe away the hair, German worked the hair dryer, Albertin Chapman and Andujar held mirrors and Sanchez took over the clippers. In between clients, German briefly sat down in the chair as Sanchez and Andujar had the clippers in hand, but he quickly jumped up when the blade got close to his head.
"Yeah I was definitely nervous right there," German said through a translator. "They are not barbers. It's just trying to have a little bit of fun and enjoy the day."
"Domingo is losing his hair, so I was going to help him out there with a zero," Sanchez said. "But he wouldn't let me."
After the Yankees handed the tools back over to the professional barbers, Brooklyn native Marc Desir -- who is extremely particular about his haircuts -- sat down in Bustos' chair to have his goatee groomed and his hairline touched up.
"I asked him how much would he have charged me for this in his store. He said $250," Desir said. "This is a super blessing, dealing with a man like that, who's coming out and giving out free haircuts. That's a beautiful thing."
Once all the hair had been cut, the afternoon wrapped up with a group lunch. Before the team left, Zillo asked Bustos to throw out the first pitch of the game against the Rays later that evening to continue to honor a man who is doing so much in his community.
Although he had a rare off-day to be able to enjoy his afternoon with the Yankees and the members of the YMCA, Bustos' career is causing him to travel more than he once was, but that does not mean his charity work is coming to an end.
"Whatever city I'm in, I just try to hit the streets, because unfortunately, no matter where you are in the world, there are people who do need help," Bustos said. "So just trying to inspire people to just do whatever they can in their own neighborhoods to be able to build the community up."
Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.