12th annual COMMUNITYCares supports those affected by cancer, domestic abuse, homelessness

  • Bill Santos, seated, gets a haircut from Danielle Gramlich of Big Island Beauty Academy Saturday at the 12th annual COMMUNITYCares event on Saturday. (Cameron Miculka/West Hawaii Today)

  • Tiana Steinberg, left, and Angelia Han pose together for a selfie in their “Wizard of Oz”-themed costumes during the 12th annual COMMUNITYCares event on Saturday. (Cameron Miculka/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Bill Santos got a haircut on Saturday — not something he does very frequently, just every four or five years.

“When my hair gets long enough to where I can donate it,” he said. “Generally, they ask 10 inches, and that’s what I donate.”

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Both he and Edie Santos donate their hair when they can, they said Saturday at the 12th annual COMMUNITYCares event, which raises funds to support people with cancer as well as those who are escaping domestic abuse or are homeless.

For Bill and Edie, donating their hair to go toward wigs for those with cancer is a very personal cause. Both said they have lost loved ones to cancer.

And events like COMMUNITYCares, they said, can go a long way in helping others whose lives have been affected by cancer.

“I just love what this small community can do for cancer,” said Edie Santos. “So we try. We try to support where we can.”

Tiana Steinberg, founder of COMMUNITYCares and owner of Tiana’s Avon &Wigs on Luhia Street, said part of her goal is to give people the same support others showed her when she had a brain tumor.

“And when they helped me, that was just like, wow, somebody believes enough in me to help me,” she said. “And so that’s the same feeling that I want to give to them. It’s like you’re not in it alone.”

In addition to haircuts and styles — with cut hair being donated to Locks of Love — the event also featured a silent auction, vendor booths, live entertainment and a costume contest with the theme of “Over The Rainbow: Wizard of Oz Style,” encouraging attendees to dress up as Oz’s inhabitants.

Among them was first-time attendee Angelia Han, who came to Saturday’s event as the Tin Woodman and was judging the event’s dance competition.

Events like this, she said, not only bring the community together but can also expose people to the different issues that are happening in society.

“Also just to spread awareness and education as well,” she added. “So it’s not just a ‘let’s have fun’ kind of thing, but it’s very purposeful and intentional.”

Not only does the event raise funds to provide free wigs to those with cancer, Steinberg said it also helps pay for “daily needs” care packages for the homeless and those who are escaping a situation involving domestic abuse.

“When you’re trying to escape the situation, you don’t really think about ‘OK, I need to pack my bag,’” she said. “You just immediately leave; you try to escape quickly.”

The daily needs package includes supplies like shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrush that can be delivered to Child and Family Services’ domestic abuse shelter when it receives new clients.

Seeing those who come back year after year to support COMMUNITYCares and contribute their time or resources, Steinberg said, “it’s like a little family.”

“You know, Hawaii is ohana, and you can be ohana all different ways,” she said. “You have your family, and for them to continue their support, that’s awesome.”

For many of them, Steinberg said it’s an opportunity to pay forward the love and compassion they too were shown in a time of need.

“They’re saying, well, I’m here because I’ve been touched by it and I know the pain — the financial, the physical effects of it,” she said. “Especially cancer. Cancer doesn’t care who you are.”

And for Bill and Edie Santos, the event demonstrates the care that residents of the community— and the whole island, for that matter— have for their neighbors.

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“This is what exudes that aloha spirit that we have here,” said Bill Santos.

“That’s it,” added Edie Santos. “The aloha spirit is here; it’s just here. You can tell by just the people that came to donate their time to perform, and it’s just nice. I love it when the whole community comes together like this. I just love it.”

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