By MICHELLE FIRESTONE
Chronicle Staff Writer
MANSFIELD â€” In 1997, Shawn Maynard took on the task of organizing the first Relay For Life of Greater Windham County.
Since then, the event has grown quite a bit and has been successful at raising money for cancer research and programs.
This year, Maynard, who is executive director of the Windham Hospital Foundation, has a special role in the event, which is Saturday.
He has been designated a â€śHero in Purple,â€ť a special honor given to community leaders who raise awareness and funds for the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life in the community.
â€śThe event is near and dear to my heart,â€ť said Maynard, who said he has had family members, friends and co-workers who have had cancer.
The event will be held at the Eastern Connecticut State University Athletic Complex, 67 Mansfield City Road, Mansfield. Relay for Life kicks off with the opening ceremony at 11 a.m.
There will be a survivor lap around 11:30 a.m., a luminaria at 7 p.m. and closing ceremonies at 10:45 p.m.
Heroes in Purple are asked to raise at least $1,000 each, while other participants are asked to raise at least $100 each.
The overall fundraising goal for the event is $100,000.
Maynard encouraged community members to come out and enjoy the activities Saturday.
He said the event raises awareness about cancer and what the American Cancer Society does to â€śfight the cause and help those who have cancer through all the different programs they have.â€ť
People can register online at www.relayforlife.org/windhamct or on the day of the event.
There is a donation link on that website as well as more information.
Donations support cancer research and various programs, including: the American Cancer Societyâ€™s Road to Recovery, which provides free rides to cancer patients to and from cancer-related appointments; the American Cancer Societyâ€™s Hope Lodge Program, which provides free overnight lodging to cancer patients and their families; and â€śLook Good, Feel Better,â€ť a program that helps women with cancer deal with the appearance-related side effects of cancer.
Luminaria bags cost $5 the day of the event or $10 online and honor those affected by cancer.
Messages can be written on the bags in honor of those who have survived, are currently battling or have died from cancer. Torches cost $50.
RK Hair Designs of Mans-field will be cutting hair starting at 1 p.m. for a donation and they will also do manicures and eyebrow waxing.