As he gears up for the 19th Annual Community Cuts for Kids in East St. Louis and St. Louis next week, Craig Shields admitted that this year was one of the toughest to power through.
In the span of six months, Shields – known to many in St. Louis as Craig Blac – lost his older brother and his mother. Last week he lost his younger cousin.
His brother passed away in October of 2018 and his mother passed away on May 30. Considering how close the family is, it would be a valid reason to put Community Cuts for Kids on hold for 2019.
“My brother helped me out a lot and my mom helped me out a lot,” Blac said. “They were behind the scenes. From a financial standpoint, when we couldn’t get this or get that, they helped out. My family is in D.C., but they would help out the St. Louis community as a silent partner.”
His brother, Burton Shields, came to St. Louis several times to help out. He also helped out with the Community Cuts for Kids in their hometown of Washington, D.C. – which is now in its third year.
Instead of shutting down, Blac decided keeping things going while honoring their memory is the best way to celebrate their lives. He changed the name of his foundation to the Burton and Craig Shields Foundation – and Community Cuts for Kids this year is dedicated to his mother, Dorothy Shields.
“I wasn’t going to stop it, because they would say ‘you better keep it going,’” Blac said. “They would say, ‘Don’t mourn that much to where you won’t be out here doing what you need to be doing.’”
So, as he has been for nearly two decades, Blac will be back to help kids get fresh for school – a program that started when he was a popular St. Louis radio personality.
He has teamed up with area barbers and stylists to provide free haircuts and hairstyles for students as they head back for a new year. School supplies will also be given away while they last – on a first-come, first-served basis.
“My main hope is to give them that sense of self-esteem and confidence in themselves so that they will believe they can do what they need to do to be successful,” Blac said. “If I can get the children and their parents to understand that someone is there for them, to support them and help them out, that’s why I do the event.”
As in years past, the O’Fallon Recreational Complex will serve as the site for the St. Louis location, taking place from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, August 11. On the Illinois side, Blac has teamed with East St. Louis Mayor Robert Eastern III, who will host Community Cuts for Kids at East St. Louis City Hall from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The foundation has teamed with KTVI Fox 2 for a school supply drive taking place from 5:30 a.m. – 9 a.m. at Eclips Barber School (9140 Overland Plaza). Tim Ezell will be onsite broadcasting live from the school supply drive.
Blac has been away from St. Louis for several years but considers the region his second home – which is why, over the years, even when he was on air in different cities, he has always remained committed to bringing his Community Cuts for Kids back to the place where it started.
“My radio career in St. Louis helped my life,” Blac said, who left St. Louis for positions in Wisconsin and Ohio before landing back on the airwaves in his native D.C. “I had my son in St. Louis. St. Louis will forever be the home base for Community Cuts for Kids – no matter what. St. Louis gave me the program. St. Louis raised me. St. Louis helped me be a man. St. Louis helped me be a father.”
He’s seen the impact over the years. Blac talked about a young woman who won a computer in a raffle that was gifted by Computers R Us He said she attended the event somewhere around its sixth or seventh year.
“Fast forward to year 15 or 16, the mom came to the event and said the computer we gave her got her all the way through college.”
He couldn’t remember the woman or her daughter’s name, but he said he will never forget the sense of gratitude she displayed when talking about how that computer helped her in earning her degree.
“If I can pull together some resources within the St. Louis community to help another family make it to another level as far as education – and just help them be prepared for the upcoming school year and lift some of the financial burden – then I’m going to keep doing it,” Blac said.
What started as him meeting a community service requirement for his boss, has evolved into Blac’s passion.
“I’m going to keep doing it until I no longer have the strength in my bones to continue. And hopefully somebody will take over for me – if not my son, then one of my good radio colleagues or directors.”
For more information on the 19th Annual Community Cuts for Kids, visit thecraigshieldsfoundation.org.