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Sandy cut-a-thon raises funds for 2 causes

Kevin Donohue, 32, of Ronkonkoma, booked his appointment

Kevin Donohue, 32, of Ronkonkoma, booked his appointment for a haircut as soon as he found out about Cactus Salon and Spa's Cut-for-a-Cause event, which raised money for two Long Island organizations affected by superstorm Sandy. (Nov. 25, 2012) Credit: Kathleen Fordyce

When Melissa Wandursky isn’t cutting hair at the Dix Hills Cactus Salon, she can often be found volunteering at Islandia-based Pal-O-Mine Equestrian, a nonprofit therapeutic riding program.

But like many places on Long Island, Pal-O-Mine was hit hard by superstorm Sandy, forcing it to close for about two weeks. So when Cactus Salon organized the “Hurricane Sandy Cut-for-a-Cause” fundraiser for both Pal-O-Mine and Island Harvest, the largest hunger relief organization on the Island, Wandursky jumped in.

On Sunday, she was one of about 60 hairdressers at six Cactus Salon locations around the Island volunteering for a three-hour cut-a-thon.

“It was a perfect way to help,” she said while teasing a customer’s wet hair at the Cactus Salon in Smithtown. “Right up my alley.”

The fundraiser was the brainchild of Mandi Budah, Pal-O-Mine’s volunteer coordinator.

Budah said Pal-O-Mine suffered significant property damage and was without power for two weeks. Because of the ensuing gas shortage, during which many people restricted their travel, the organization was without the help of 150 regular volunteers.

As a result, Pal-O-Mine had to cancel the lessons of its 350 students for two weeks.

A family member connected Budah with Cactus Salon, and six locations — in East Islip, Manorville, Nesconset, Northport, Plainview and Smithtown — agreed to participate. They decided to split the money between Pal-O-Mine and Island Harvest to reach more people in need of help. donated items for a raffle and other local businesses threw in some prizes, too.

“Normally when we do a cut-a-thon, we charge $20 and give half to the charity,” said Karen Vito, Cactus Salon’s marketing director. “But this time, because of the incredible devastation, we decided to donate 100 percent of the money not only to help [Pal-O-Mine], but help people Islandwide. Everyone was affected by the storm so everyone wants to help. It’s moving, to say the least.”

Joan Aruanna, of St. James, visited the Smithtown salon.

“I’m very lucky and I feel terrible for these people,” she said of those affected by the storm. “I needed a haircut anyway and it’s a great cause, so I decided to come.”

Lorraine McDermott, of Smithtown, got a haircut along with her 3-year-old daughter, Leila. McDermott said she was happy to see companies getting creative in their aid efforts.

“It’s nice that you can contribute in different ways,” she said. “You would never think that you could get a haircut and help out at the same time. It’s great that so many companies and businesses are able to fundraise like this.”

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