They started buzzing at 7:30 a.m. A team of young women, led by Heather Flynn, who owns and operates Aidan’s Barber Shops in Adams Corner and Lower Mills, barely put down their clippers for a moment until quitting time— 5 p.m.
At 4 p.m., with an hour to go and a steady stream of families and men still streaming in the doors, Flynn had nearly run out of neck strips— the paper lining used on each person she buzzed.
“That’s the way we’ve been keeping count,” Flynn explained as she made short work of one guy. “We each had 100 strips when we started this morning. There were 12 of us (barbers) and now we’re down to nine. And we’re all almost out of neck strips.”
Like almost everyone else in the room, Flynn is friends with Eddie and Katy Kelly, the Neponset couple whose 4 year-old son Tommy sparked the idea of the buzz-off. Initially, Heather thought they’d just open up the two barber shops on a Monday and stage the buzz-off at the two Dot locations. Then, as word spread and photos of the Kelly boys went viral on social media, she realized this event would need a bigger venue.
As Flynn and her team did their work in Florian’s main banquet room, Tommy— draped in a Spiderman cape—buzzed around the union hall’s corridors with a crew of friends and cousins— all of them sporting wiffles. It was impossible to tell that Tommy had been diagnosed with stage four cancer just months ago or that he’s been fighting through grueling chemotherapy treatments this summer.
Those chemo treatments would result in hair loss— so Tommy and his dad got ahead of things and buzzed their own heads in defiance. Now, a large chunk of the neighborhood and the South Shore was joining them as a sign of solidarity.
It was also a chance to pitch in for the cause.
On a table in front of the line of chairs where the barbers buzzed customers sat two goldfish bowls. Both were filled, mainly with 20 dollar bills.
At 4:30 p.m., Tiger Stockbridge walked in with his wife Kristen and a wad of bills in his hand.
“People on Facebook put up $600 to get me to shave my head,” said Stockbridge before stuffing the currency into one of the bowls. Within minutes, he was freshly shorn and nervously inspecting the new dome. His wife, celebrating her birthday, seemed unconcerned.
“It’s only hair,” she shrugged.
A few steps away, Tommy Kelly’s dad Eddie greeted fellow firefighters, neighbors and friends one by one.
Tommy Kelly was asked to join his dad in a photo for the local paper. But, Tommy didn’t have time to slow his super-hero act for the cameras. There were cousins to chase, friends to climb with and a summer’s day to enjoy outside.
“It’s overwhelming to be on the receiving end of such an incredible outpouring of support. It speaks volumes about the neighborhood we live in. I’m very proud to be a Dorchester resident,” Eddie said.