Pechanga Spa’s ‘Mane Campaign’ visits Hemet’s Little Lake Elementary School

Hairstylists from Pechanga Resort Casino’s Spa Pechanga prepare a group of children’s and adults’ hair, Oct. 9, at Little Lake Elementary School in Hemet to be cut and donated to the Hair We Share organization to make wigs for women battling cancer. Shane Gibson photo

Nineteen young ladies and students from four Hemet schools and several of their parents each gave, 8-10 inches of hair during the first Spa Pechanga Mane Campaign held at Little Lake Elementary School Wednesday, Oct. 9.

The students, who waited to have their hair cut by one of five Spa Pechanga hairdressers, showed their smiles in giving a gift of their hair that will be fashioned into a wig for a recovering cancer patient.

While the students learned compassion, kindness and the joy of giving, a few couldn’t hold back a few tears, not from losing some of their hair, but from the memory of a relative or close friend who was died of cancer.

Destiny Alvarez, 13, from Dartmouth Middle School with long shiny black 3-foot-long ponytails, was one of those students.

“I just want to help someone else,” she said. “My uncle died from cancer.”

It was her way of honoring him, she said quietly.

The hair stylist cut 8 inches of Destiny’s ponytails, and once completed, Destiny held them up with a smile on her face for the camera. Following her haircut, a hair dresser combed and styled her remaining hair.

Two of three girls from a set of triplets at Hemet High School, Malia and Maris Arrocena 16, were all smiles awaiting their turn for their hair trims. The third sister gave her locks already to the Mane Campaign. It was their older sister, a Pechanga Casino and Resort employee who brought the idea to the Little Lake School.

Their mother Christine Arrocena, having donated her hair as a part of Cancer Awareness Month,. is the secretary of the Little Lake Elementary School. She convinced Principal Robert Broecker to bring the Mane Campaign to the school.

“I’m proud that my daughter took it upon herself to make the decision to donate her hair to a good cause. For us, it’s especially a good cause because my mom died from cancer,” Sandra Hernandez, mother of a 10-year-old hair donor, said.

The donors sat in a semicircle of chairs, awaiting their turn.

Watching the mass hair trimming was Barbara Caudle, a Hemet Unified School District administrator.

“I have breast cancer,” Caudle said. “I was diagnosed in 2008 and went through a lot of chemo radiation. You don’t know the happiness it brings to other people who have lost their hair. It makes a big difference to them when they don’t feel like an equal to everyone else because they don’t look the same.”

Spa Pechanga volunteer hairdressers Rochelle Marivojoc, Lauren Fink, Rose Mares, Diane Brown and Lilly Pulido cut and styled each donor’s hair.

At the conclusion, the event collected 80 feet of hair. The ponytails were sorted on a table and will be sent to “Hair We Share” in New York and made into wigs for cancer patients.

Hair We Share is a nonprofit program that makes wigs out of donated hair and distributes them free of charge to cancer patients and others with a medical hair loss conditions.

The wigmakers said it takes 6-9 ponytails to make a real-hair wig, the school’s collection gathered enough to make a minimum of five wigs.

Now in its seventh year, more than 500 ponytails have been collected by Spa Pechanga hairdressers. Gray hair and naturally colored hair is welcome. Bleached hair cannot be accepted. Those wishing to donate eight or more inches of hair receive a free haircut and style at Spa Pechanga at Pechanga Resort Casino throughout the month of October. The free haircuts and styles are provided Monday through Thursday by appointment through Oct. 31. To donate hair, call (951) 770-8501.

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Tony Ault can be reached by email at