Diva for a Day on Staten Island, a nonprofit that supports women with cancer, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Betty Stallone, of Prince’s Bay, knows first hand how the organization helps so many women in their time of crisis–she’s not only a breast cancer survivor and Diva participant, but a volunteer for the organization, too.
Ten years ago, Stallone, a jewelry business owner, was getting her last chemo treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center when she received a call from the Diva organization.
The call was to let her know a friend nominated her for a Diva for a Day experience, which would entail a day of many relaxing beauty treatments ranging from hair or wig grooming to massages, facials, manicures and more.
“The experience was amazing, it could not have been a nicer day,” Stallone said. “Between treatments and running my business, there was no time for myself. It was the only day during treatment that I did not feel like a cancer patient.”
The mom of two received a facial, massage, makeup and wig styling. She didn’t get a manicure because she has lymphedema from lymph nodes being removed. Her medical team suggested she didn’t get manicures, she said.
Stallone was one of the first clients when Diva for a Day on Staten Island was founded. And she continues to work with the organization as a volunteer and supporter.
“I’ve always kept in touch with the ladies from Diva for a Day. They are definitely near and dear to my heart,” Stallone, who is now cancer free, said. “I really want to be part of making someone’s gloomy cancer days just a little better even if just one day.”
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About Diva for A Day on Staten Island
Diva for a Day on Staten Island provides a relaxing respite for cancer patients at local salons throughout the borough, including A.F. Bennett Salon and Wellness Spa in New Dorp.
A typical diva day includes a massage, facial, manicure, pedicure, hair or wig grooming, and a light makeup application. Participants are treated to lunch to round out the experience.
At the end of the day, which can be up to six fun and relaxing hours, divas receive a bouquet of flowers. Sometimes, friends and family schedule services, too, so they can enjoy the day with their loved ones.
Christina Swiderski is another volunteer at Diva for a Day on Staten Island. She loves seeing the reactions of friends and family members when the divas complete their services.
“My favorite involvement to see is when they gather for the ‘reveal’ at the end of the day, especially when it’s a surprise,” Swiderski joyfully said.
Women and girls get a lot out of the program, as it provides an escape from the stresses they endure as they undergo life-saving treatments.
“I like to say it’s not about the lipstick but sometimes it is,” Swiderski said. “The spa treatments and delicate handling are in such contrast to the harsh but lifesaving treatments they receive that it’s really a reawakening and restorative time.”
For some participants, the experience might be the first time they’ve taken some quiet time to forget or the first time they’ve looked in a mirror in months.
“Some have that recognition ‘I’m still here’ or ‘I’m back!’ It’s really something they carry forward in their recovery or still-difficult journey,” Swiderski said.
Diva for a Day on Staten Island and Nationwide
Diva for a Day is a nationwide organization founded in New Jersey in 2010 by Debbie Sestokas and Peggy Matzen. It’s had a Staten Island presence since 2013. Women and girls (there’s no established age requirement) are typically nominated by friends or family.
To be eligible for the program, participants are usually within a year of diagnosis, treatment or six months after their last surgery. It’s 100% free for all divas.
According to Swiderski, Diva for a Day on Staten Island has hosted more than 125 local women and girls. There was a slight decline during the pandemic, but the organization had a slow return in 2022.
Most vendors provide services for the diva experience at no cost. Some offer a discount but others require full payment. Funds for those days come out of donations. Stallone, as a jeweler, has also donated a pair of earrings to a recent Diva for a Day raffle.
If you know a woman or girl diagnosed with cancer, in treatment or within a year of post-op, visit Divaforaday.org to nominate her for the program.
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