South Jersey stylist on a mission to give every cancer patient a free wig

ByRebeccah Hendrickson via WPVI logo
Wednesday, October 5, 2022
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"My job is to really make them look cancer free for free and that's what we've done with the wigs we use," said Martino Cartier, who started his nonprofit "Wigs and Wishes" 12 years ago.

SEWELL, New Jersey (WPVI) -- A South Jersey stylist is on a mission to help women battling cancer by helping them overcome one important obstacle: their hair.

Every day at Martino Cartier Salon, a brave cancer patient like Laura Donovan sits in a chair while Martino himself shaves her head.

The celebrity stylist's reputation precedes him.

"My oncologist told me there's a man in Sewell, New Jersey, who gives wigs to women with breast cancer. So I looked him up," said Donovan, who's from Yardley.

What she found is a man on a mission to give every cancer patient a free wig that looks like their real hair.

"My job is to really make them look cancer free for free and that's what we've done with the wigs we use," said Cartier, who started his nonprofit "Wigs and Wishes" 12 years ago.

"That was when a woman came in and couldn't find a wig that didn't look like a wig," he said.

His secret is to make wigs with hand-tied lanced scalps that match the person's skin tone.

"If the Tin Man needed a wig, the scalp would then look tin because they are completely see-through," he said.

To call his product popular is an understatement. He gets calls from around the globe for his wigs. Salons register with him for free and help him distribute more than 25,000 wigs a year.

"Our motto is if you don't know how to give, you don't know how to live -- and we're giving joy, we're giving love," he said.

In about a year, the salon will be moving to the Cartier family property down the road where there will be more space, private rooms for the wigs, events and even a petting zoo with over 100 animals.

"It's like a resort for women. They're going to come in while they're getting their hair in. They're going to see alpacas out the window, llamas, mini horses that are all rescued," Cartier said.

It's a dream larger than life rooted in lives, like Donovan's that Cartier is working so hard to change.

"To all my sisters out there, you are stronger than cancer," Donovan said.