The Washington Township based salon and nonprofit Wigs and Wishes by Martino Cartier held its annual gala on Nov.14 to celebrate 10 years of donating wigs to women with cancer as well as granting wishes to children with the disease.
“The COVID-19 couldn’t stop us from changing lives,” said the nonprofit’s founder and CEO, Martino Cartier. “It made us stronger; it brought people together … I really thought we were going to miss this year completely and it wound up being the greatest ever.”
Wigs and Wishes was created a decade ago by Cartier, who now resides in Sewell. The original idea was to help give women with breast cancer free wigs to help them look cancer free. The idea developed throughout those 10 years and it now offers women with any kind of cancer a chance to receive a free wig styled by Cartier. This year alone, Wigs and Wishes donated 25,000 hair pieces to women across the U.S., with even more distributed across the globe.
The nonprofit has also granted wishes for children with cancer.
“We grant wigs and wishes to women and children battling cancer with zero red tape and no paid employees,” Cartier said. “There’s hundreds of kids that have passed away that we have granted wishes for … What I love about Wigs and Wishes is that it is run by a ton of people with a big heart.”
The Wigs and Wishes gala was held at Gloucester County Community Church, which was decorated and transformed into a Night at the Oscars by over 60 volunteers. The church was adorned with 17-foot-long crystal columns that hung from the ceiling as well as life-size Oscar statues.
Kris Sumey, owner of Boardwalk Pizza in Havertown, Pennsylvania, and EventFX of Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania, created a Wall of Warriors for guests to admire before entering the venue. It was made up of 8-foot-tall brass panels that displayed hundreds of photos of people whose lives were changed by Cartier and the Wigs and Wishes community.
“I’m never speechless; I could talk to a piece of cardboard. But with this, I was just left speechless,” Cartier noted.
The gala, livestreamed on Facebook, welcomed many people touched by cancer, as well as family and friends who wanted to show their support. Anna Maestrini of Italy was diagnosed with ovarian cancer that is now terminal.
“I brought her up on stage and it was like she had the world praying for her,” Cartier said of Maestrini. “She was so moved and it was such an organic moment that wasn’t planned.”
Brittany Muszynski, an oncology nurse at Pennsylvania Hospital who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, was crowned a Queen of the Night. She was brought on stage so Cartier could place a new wig on her head and style it while church member Mary Lou Tweed sang “You are God.” By the end of the song, Muszynski had a brand new wig as well as a tiara on her head.
“So we brought her out, bald, vulnerable, with people all over the world watching,” Cartier recalled. “There was not a dry eye.”
Wigs and Wishes is in the process of buying a new building on Fries Mill Road and the Black Horse Pike to become a new salon and Wigs and Wishes headquarters.
“(The building) is going to be the new home for the salon and a private place for women to get their head shaved without being in the middle of a business where people watch,” Cartier explained. “We have been working on that for quite some time and we are really close to signing a deal.”
For more information about Wigs and Wishes visit https://www.wigsandwishes.org.