Described by her parents as feisty and sassy, seven-year-old Mackenzie Rose and her mother Liz...

Described by her parents as feisty and sassy, seven-year-old Mackenzie Rose and her mother Liz Raiburn consulted Martino Cartier about a wig for Mackenzie to wear after her bone marrow transplant. 

Every stylist knows the heartwarming joy of connecting with a client when you truly change their life for the better. In fact, New Jersey-based Salon Owner Martino Cartier created an entire foundation based on that experience. Wigs & Wishes provides wigs and grants wishes to courageous individuals battling cancer through a network of participating salons, stylists and global corporate sponsorships. Since its inception in 2011, the organization has given more than 100,000 wigs and granted dozens of wishes.

Touched by An Angel

Even though Cartier has been orchestrating magic for more than a dozen years, he recently experienced an extraordinary, multi-dimensional miracle that reaffirmed his faith. It started when Elizabeth Raiburn brought her seven-year-old daughter Mackenzie Rose in for a wig consultation several weeks ago. A feisty and sassy strawberry blonde, Mackenzie had been diagnosed with a blood disorder that required chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant.

After the consultation, Elizabeth texted Cartier to tell him that Mackenzie, who had been scared to shave her head, now was excitedly chatting about Cartier all the way home and that she couldn’t wait to wear the wig. “You have the kindest heart,” she wrote. “You can just tell seeing the way you spoke to Mackenzie, and even your other clients.”

Cartier and Elizabeth made plans to Facetime after the bone marrow transplant when Mackenzie’s hair started to fall out, so he could walk her through how to shave Mackenzie’s head and put the wig on. “I was planning to play some crazy music in the background and be goofy Martino and make this the best experience we could,” he says.

But instead, on the afternoon of the procedure, Cartier got a heartbreaking text from Elizabeth. “Mackenzie suffered a devastating brain bleed shortly after her transplant. They have pronounced her brain dead,” she wrote. “We are trying to donate her organs and then let her pass peacefully.”


The Power of Beauty

While Cartier’s head was spinning, he remembered a moment from a meeting he had the previous week with Kao Salon Division executives, who support his Wigs & Wishes fund-raising Gala every year. In the meeting, Anthony Soriano, a Kao senior education manager, mentioned he was starting dialysis the following Monday and that he is on the kidney transplant list.

“When I got that text from Mackenzie Rose’s mother, the first thing I thought of was Anthony,” Cartier says. “Now to be a match for a kidney when you’re not related—they say you have a better chance of winning the Mega Millions lottery, which is why people wait on the list for so long.

But Cartier now was on a mission, so he asked Elizabeth what Mackenzie’s blood type was, and after many calls to get Soriano’s cell number, he called and learned they were both A+. “In my heart of hearts I knew this kidney was a match, and I told Anthony to pack a bag and head to the hospital, even though he kept telling me I didn’t understand how this worked and there were so many factors into a kidney being a match,” Cartier says.

In the conversation, Cartier got Soriano’s donor ID number and even though many of the doctors also assured him there was almost no likelihood the kidney would be a match, he was persistent, and when the hospital finally  evaluate all the markers, they discovered not only was the kidney a match, it was a perfect match.

The next morning Soriano underwent the transplant at the University of Pennsylvania. “I never met Mackenzie in real life, but now she lives inside of me,” he said in a message he later recorded for the young girl’s family. "I am so beyond full of love and gratitude that words can not even express.”

In Mackenzie's Memory

“She should be here, but since we can’t have her, I’m just thankful that she was able to save other lives, and I just want her to live on forever in people’s hearts and memories,” says Elizabeth Raiburn.

Martino Cartier and one of his Wigs & Wishes' recipients at a past Gala Event. The organization...

Martino Cartier and one of his Wigs & Wishes' recipients at a past Gala Event. The organization has donated more than 100,000 wigs and dozens of wishes to people battling cancer. 

And, Cartier has plans to make that wish happen. At the next Wigs & Wishes gala in Philadelphia this November, he plans to launch the “Mackenzie Gift of Life Award” to “someone that we find uses their time, talent and treasure to the best of their ability to make a difference,” he says.

And, Soriano, Mackenzie’s family and Kao will surely all be cheering loudly for the honoree.

“We are humbled to be just a small part of Mackenzie’s extraordinary journey. Her experience with Wigs & Wishes only strengthens our resolve as a brand to continue supporting this amazing organization,” says Scott Guinter, general manager, Kao USA Salon Division. “Kao Salon extends our deepest sympathy and condolences to Mackenzie’s family, while sending our colleague Anthony our very best wishes for a speedy recovery.”

Donate your money or talents to Wigs & Wishes or attend the Gala by visiting Wigs & Wishes

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.