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KARK Pays it 4ward to Small Business Owner Concerned with Making Difference, Not Paycheck

The nominations are in, and KARK is kicking off a month long series called Pay it 4ward. We'll be introducing you to four inspiring Arkansans who are going above and beyond to do some good in their communities.
She just deserves this because she's very humble and she truly wants to help other people. It's not about her, it's about paying back.
BENTON, AR -- The nominations are in, and KARK is kicking off a monthlong series called Pay it 4ward, where we will be introducing you to four inspiring Arkansans who are going above and beyond to do some good in their communities.

Our first recipient is a Saline County mother. It wasn't her talent alone that got our attention, but how she's using it to meet a need, one haircut at a time.

Inside this salon, you don't hear any gossip, just giggles.

"Oh, I love coming into work every day," Karen Watts said. "I don't think of it as a job or career, it's just something that I want to do. I love it

A mother's passion born out of a struggle she had with her two little boys. One has Autism and the other Down Syndrome.

"They would scream," Watts said. "Places didn't want to cut their hair. Hairdressers didn't want to cut their hair, so I knew right then, I wasn't the only one out there."

Watts did something about it. She went to cosmetology school and opened Artistik Salon in Benton in October 2012. It isn't just any salon, but the first in central Arkansas catering to children and adults with special needs.

"I have people that come from two hours away, and she was cutting her son's hair in his sleep for five years," Watts said.

It's a unique service parents like Scarlett Hill are grateful for.

"It's a huge blessing," Hill said. "You come in and Karen is very supportive. I know that Autumn isn't going to be judged, and it's a very safe place for her. She doesn't just cut her hair, she's joking with her. She's making her feel comfortable. She knows exactly how to talk to her and not talk down to her."

If you spend a few minutes with Watts, you'll quickly see the joy she brings to each child and even if that means making some adjustments.

"If they need a lap pad, if they need to watch cartoons, if they need to standup and play with the sensory wall, I will cut their hair on the floor," Watts said.

Soon the salon's front shelves will be stocked full of products for special needs kids, fulfilling Watts dream of bringing the first sensory store to her community.

It's just another reason KARK is paying it forward to this busy mom and business owner, who is more concerned about about making a difference than a paycheck.

"She just deserves this because she's very humble and she truly wants to help other people," Hill said. "It's not about her, it's about paying back."

On Oct. 29, a KARK crew surprised Watts at Artistik salon with a three-month advertising package to help Watts reach even more families in central Arkansas.

"Wow," Watts said. "I don't know what to say. It's amazing, thank you."

Karen's heart of service was truly shining in August, when she gave away more than 50 free haircuts to families who couldn't afford it.

Just this week, Watts also learned she's been approved for a service dog to use at the salon.
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