Evanston beauty school students cut hair to support missing children


Alice Yin/The Daily Northwestern

Alicia Kozakiewicz discusses her hope for working to end child abductions and exploitation. Kozakiewicz, a victim of a kidnapping, attended the Cut-A-Thon as a guest speaker to share her experiences.

Alice Yin, Reporter

Cosmetology students gave haircuts for 12 hours on Thursday at an Evanston beauty school as part of an annual Cut-A-Thon fundraiser to support the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Dressed in green, the national color symbolizing missing children, students provided haircuts and skin care services at the Evanston campus of Pivot Point Academy, 1560 Sherman Ave., to both walk-in customers and those who made appointments. All proceeds went to NCMEC, which is celebrating its 30th year in providing resources to those affected by child abduction and exploitation.

Alicia Kozakiewicz spoke at the event about preventing child abduction and exploitation and shared her personal story as a survivor. In 2002, 13-year-old Kozakiewicz was kidnapped in her hometown of Pittsburgh by a man who contacted her online. After being rescued by FBI agents, she began an effort to spread awareness and preventative measures.

“It’s sometimes difficult to share my story,” Kozakiewicz told The Daily. “But that’s the point, to stop it before it happens. No matter how many kids I speak to, no matter how many families … it’s all about that one family, that one child who doesn’t have to go through this anymore.”

In 2013, roughly 400,000 children were reported missing in the United States. There was a more than 1,000 percent increase in child sex trafficking reports from 2004 to 2008, according to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

“We’re hoping at some point we won’t even have to have these organizations when we’re able to really support and self-monitor so we don’t have to have these things happen,” said Melanie Kopeikin, Pivot Point International, Inc. president.

Those who spoke at the event included NCMEC chief operating officer Linda Krieg, Pivot Point chairman and chief executive officer Robert Passage, and Evanston mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl. In addition, Pivot Point alum Ivan Zoot, who holds the Guinness Book of World Record for fastest haircut in the world and most haircuts in an hour, came to offer his services.

Members of the Evanston Police Department were present to fingerprint children for parents to keep on record. Another Cut-A-Thon took place on Thursday at the Pivot Point campus in Bloomingdale, Illinois.

Passage, who organized the first charity event with NCMEC in 1997 with his late sister, Corrine Passage, said the annual fundraiser has grown a lot since the first year they picked the NCMEC as the charity of choice. Today, they have raised more than one million dollars for the organization. Passage said before the event that the they “plan to raise well over $100,000” on Thursday.

Kozakiewicz is the namesake of Alicia’s Law, a bill passed in several states that increases funding to law enforcement in fighting child exploitation. Her foundation, the Alicia Project aims to have the initiative passed in all 50 states. Kozakiewicz said she finds the Cut-A-Thon fundraiser incredibly inspiring. Funding is crucial in a world where “fiscal budgets (are) equated with children’s lives,” she said.

“What they’re doing is they’re helping create a miracle,” Kozakiewicz said. “They’re helping bring a child home. Every penny, every dollar helps the National Center … and if (the NCMEC) weren’t here I wouldn’t be here.”

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