Bonnie Maur, a longtime teacher at Chalk Hill and Jockey Hollow middle schools, is leading the Think Pink Monroe initiative, working with St. Vincent’s Swim Across the Sound and a committee of volunteers to raise breast cancer awareness.
The cause is near and dear to Maur, a breast cancer survivor herself. The beloved educator was serving as science director for the entire Monroe school district, when she was diagnosed years ago.
During Maur’s recovery teachers paid for someone to clean her house and, while she rested after treatments, parents took turns leaving meals in a cooler on Maur’s front steps every day, never knocking in case she was asleep.
“They told me no thanks was necessary. They did not give their names,” Maur said of the parents. “I was truly touched and now I want to give back. I believe in paying it forward. I believe we’re all in this life for each other.”
She now has a new lease on life, having been cancer free for the last 14 years. Maur, who is now the STEM director for the College of Education at Sacred Heart University, has three grown children, Eric, Alyson and Jason, who is a Monroe Town Council member.
Though she is cancer free, Maur had to have open heart surgery six years ago, because of scar tissue around her heart from the radiation treatments. She said part of her mission is to educate people about the disease.
‘Why not us?’
In 2008, Monroe Board of Education members encouraged representatives of the American Cancer Society to make Maur honorary chair of the Relay for Life of Monroe and Trumbull.
“I was private about my cancer journey and becoming honorary chair took me out of my shell,” Maur said, explaining how tough it was losing her hair from the chemotherapy, as it is for so many women. “It enabled me to become involved in things like this to support other people.”
Since then, Maur has participated in a 40-mile-walk in New York City to raise money for breast cancer awareness and treatment for eight years. Then last year she had an idea for Monroe.
“I saw other towns doing ‘Think Pink’ in October,” Maur said of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, “and I thought, ‘why not us?'”
While she looked for an organization to work with, St. Vincent’s Swim Across the Sound representatives showed Maur how the money it raises comes back to help patients in Monroe.
For instance, in 2019, 10 Monroe patients received assistance for expenses such as mortgages, homeowner’s insurance, rent, electric bills, child care and transportation for a total of $18,574. Last year, $23,145 was used to help 12 Monroe residents.
“It inspired me to have more money come back for more residents,” Maur said. “Everybody has a story and many don’t realize we have neighbors in need and this is one way to give back.”
Maur said St. Vincent’s Swim Across the Sound’s representatives attended the Think Pink Monroe Planning Committee’s regular meetings and helped the committee to become organized and plan its events.
“They’ve truly become a partner on Think Pink Monroe,” she said.
The Think Pink Monroe Planning Committee includes Maur as chair, Jason Maur and his wife, Vicky, Patty Kallas, Matt Hirsch, Debra Heim, John Bronnelly, Jennifer Draney, Kathy Minogue and Chris Howard.
Three events are scheduled and more are being planned for.
On Friday, Sept. 27, the Swim’s Mobile Mammography Coach will test women for free at the Monroe Farmers’ Market from 3 to 6 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome.
Think Pink Palooza – A Celebration of Strength and Remembrance will be held at the Town Green Gazebo on Oct. 1.
Stop & Shop will raise funds through its “Round-Up to a Dollar” program for breast cancer on Saturday, Oct. 19, and Saturday, Oct. 26.
A vigil will be planned in October to raise awareness, honor survivors and remember those lost.
Maur said Think Pink Monroe (TPM) has strong support from the first selectman. “We met with First Selectman Ken Kellogg a couple months ago and he just ran with it,” Maur said.
Maur said she also met with Superintendent of Schools Jack Zamary to get the schools involved.
Edith Wheeler Memorial Library is going to make pink bracelets and Maur is meeting with the Rotary Club and the Lions Club. Committee members are reaching out to town restaurants to organize events where a percentage of the proceeds for nights or from sales of a special pink drink for the month of October benefit TPM.
“We’re literally trying to get as much pink in the town as we can,” Maur said. “I’m also looking to partner with as many groups as possible. I just want the town to come together.”
You can help
TPM is looking for sponsors of its inaugural program. Individuals and businesses who sponsor TPM with tax deductible contributions will be recognized through the program.
A $100 Bronze Sponsor will have a window or lawn sign. A $300 Silver Sponsor will have recognition on TPM’s Facebook page and a window or lawn sign. A $500 Gold Sponsor will have their name on a T-shirt, acknowledgement in the program, recognition on Facebook and a window or lawn sign.
Those contributing $20 will receive a TPM T-shirt or lawn sign and $10 donations are good for a luminaria bag in memory or honor of a loved one. Think Pink Monroe bracelets are $1 each.
TPM is also looking for volunteers.
For information, call Bonnie Maur at 203-339-1753 or email her at [email protected]. Make checks payable to: SWIM Across the Sound. Credit card contributions can be made by calling 475-210-7308 or online. Note: Think Pink Monroe.