(All photos courtesy of Karla Waldron)

On Friday, April 1, Sayville welcomed a new resident – ‘Mondays at Racine Cancer Care.’  

With a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony, this non-profit organization was granted a well-deserved permanent home at 284 West Main Street. Many gathered to share in this accomplishment, as their loyal follower and supporter base are aware of just how far they’ve come and the importance of their mission. 

Mondays at Racine was founded by sisters Cynthia Sansone and Rachel DeMolfetto. After losing their mother, Mildred DeMolfetto, to breast cancer in 1989 at only 58 years old, Cynthia and Rachel often reflected on how much their mother enjoyed visiting the beauty salon during her illness.

Mildred suffered from low self-esteem due to the devastating side-effects of treatment, along with the emotional and mental battles that endured. The beauty salon, for both Mildred and her family, then stepped in and offered an irrefutable moment of respite and happiness. 

Inspired, Cynthia and Rachel set out to bring the same gift of healing to others similarly plagued by cancer.  

At the onset, the first salon operated out of Rachel’s already-established ‘Racine Salon & Spa’ in Islip. Here, they would open their doors, free of charge, every third Monday of the month – to cancer patients exclusively

The salon was transformed into a sanctuary equipped with healing practices, beauty techniques, and much more; a peaceful haven for those in need of one on their journey. 

Mondays at Racine tailors to cancer patients by prioritizing safety in its treatments and products. They offer generous services of hair, nail, and cosmetic care in the form of anything from a haircut, hair dye, make-up application (with or without lashes), manicures, pedicures, and wig care. 

Mondays at The Salon Ambiance.

A client at Mondays describes their experience: “This was the first time throughout my whole cancer journey that I was able to do something just for myself that didn’t involve some kind of treatment or doctor appointment for my cancer. Just being able to sit quietly and eat lunch and get a facial was overwhelmingly relaxing and pleasant. It brought tears to my eyes.” 

The foundation gained even more recognition in 2012 when HBO released its Mondays at Racine documentary. The film follows the touching stories and struggles of women who came to the salon for relief from the pain of cancer through proven mind-body-derived health, beauty and wellness services like manicures, pedicures, hairstyling, eyelash extensions and so forth. 

Not only was the film nominated for an Academy Award the next year, but its rising popularity also meant the organization had the public support it needed to officially register as a not-for-profit. What once operated as a give-back one Monday a month is now an established, widely recognized, and far-reaching charity, providing services to thousands. 

It wasn’t long after the debut of the documentary that other hair salons, spas and wellness centers were inspired to join the movement. Several businesses began partnering with the Mondays at Racine program. The welcomed need for organizational growth brought Mildred’s three other daughters into the fold. Karla Waldron, sister of Cynthia and Rachel, came aboard as Executive Director. Cynthia’s daughter, Rosemary Berger, acts as the Director of Education and Programming. Today, all five of Mildred’s granddaughters are actively involved – invaluable participants in a family organization devoted to keeping family morale high through the toughest of times. 

The sisters of Mondays at Racine.

Currently, there is a ten-person Executive Board as well as an Associate Board that acts as ambassadors for the Mondays at Racine Cancer Care Foundation. Together, they facilitate fundraising, public relations, outreach, and recruitment of new members. All volunteers and additional personnel are excited to finally have a headquarters, especially Waldron. 

“After working Mondays at Racine Cancer Care from my kitchen table for close to a decade there is nothing more gratifying than this! A collaborative space for us to be together and create more Monday’s Magic,” she said. 

Fifteen charter programs exist across Long Island and Westchester, as well as the new home-base in Sayville, all with varying days, nights and times for business hours. But the mission for each has remained unchanged: providing the care and support to cancer patients that would best help them to appreciate life, love themselves, and navigate the tumultuous terrain of cancer treatment. 

One component making Mondays at Racine as unique as their reputation that precedes them: their Integrative and Wellness Services. Appointed specialists qualified to far exceed the bare minimum go, as advertised, above and beyond with reiki, meditation, yoga, acupuncture, oncology-encompassing facials and massages, and nutritional instruction. 

“This new location for Mondays at Racine’s will allow us to expand our reach and offer support for even more people suffering from this horrendous disease. We will have the opportunity to provide more group yoga, reiki, and meditation services while being readily accessible to anyone that needs us,” said Waldron. 

“Racine’s” entire array of services allows patients to distinctly maintain a healthy mental state and undying positive spirit when they need it most. What’s more: Mondays at Racine’s also, in considering the state of the world, conveniently offers ‘Mondays at Home.’ With this option, clients are provided access to on-demand videos and virtual workshops facilitated by the experts in yoga, meditation, beauty, health and nutrition an on-location customer expects when they walk in the door. 

Clients can now contact a team of experts directly from home using resources provided on Mondays at Racine’s website. One may even make an appointment for a phone call or virtual consult as well. Online wellness workshops and book club opportunities are also accessible on the website. Some of the on-demand video featurettes include tutorials on homemade soups, “how to’s” on opening your lungs, immune-boosting food hacks, and how to combat and live with insomnia. 

Mondays at Racine accepts donations and are partnered with major companies such as Macys, WBAB Radio, Northwell Health, and New York Cancer and Blood Specialists. Waldron says, “We often forget how important it is to be kind to others, especially when they’re facing a disease like cancer. Thanks to our partnership with New York Cancer & Blood Specialists, we’re able to provide a safe space where cancer patients can come to escape their diagnosis, even if only for a few hours.” 

They’ve also experienced success raising funds by hosting their annual event – the Long Island Beauty Ball for Cancer Care. Though it’s been on hold since 2019 due to the pandemic, the Demolfetto family and their team are hopeful it will return soon. In the past, the patient-honoring occasion has been known to attract volunteers through the roof – all turning out to put on a night of entertainment, food, cocktails, and raffles that have been sorely missed these past couple of years. Proceeds are granted to the Monday at Racine Foundation, and their commitment to providing solace to the cancer-stricken.

(Left to right) Sheriff Toulon, Presiding Officer McCaffrey, Executive Director Waldron, Founder Rachel DeMolfetto, Leg. Anthony Piccirillo, and Nick LaLota.

Another new “Racine’s” location joined the program on March 28; Gypsy Hair Lounge in the Three Village Shopping Center – 1389 Route 25A in Setauket. The Grand Opening was attended by Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich and Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, among others. 

“It was a beautiful event supported by many members of our community,” Kornreich said. “Cancer has touched almost every family in our community in one way or another, and we know all too well the impact it could have on a patient’s physical appearance and emotional wellbeing. Mondays at Racine’s partners with charter programs like Gypsy Hair Lounge all throughout Long Island to offer free services that help remind those with cancer how beautiful they are.” 

The collaborations continue with a new partnership between the YMCA and Mondays at Racine. Beginning May of 2022, the two organizations will be working together to bring free services to those going through cancer treatment: meditation, art therapy, brows, lashes, cosmetics, therapeutic oncology skin care, therapeutic oncology massage, restorative chair yoga and a chair strength training class. Registration for the first ever YMCA program ends on April 15.

“Some things I know without a doubt it is to listen to my instincts, follow the momentum, and amass the greatest people who believe in your mission to stand with you!” – Executive Director, Karla Waldron

Booking an appointment with Mondays at Racine is rather simple. Interested parties can start by contacting the foundation via their website, mondaysatracine.org, or by calling 1-888-9MONDAY. Soon thereafter, a patient will be contacted and asked to pick which location they prefer to visit – and will subsequently be advised to obtain a consent form from their oncologist.

Mondays at Racine Cancer Care is located at 284 West Main Street in Sayville.