Residents of the greater New Milford area are wearing and seeing the color red around the community through Saturday as part of the Operation Wear Red Campaign organized by the Julia’s Wings Foundation.

The Sherman foundation raises awareness of aplastic anemia, a rare bone marrow failure disease that affects one in 250,000 people each year.

While the disease can affect anyone at any age, it is most common in children and young adults.

The campaign, now in its third year, take place in memory of local resident Julia Malsin and seeks to educate the general public about the disease and how they can help children and families affected by it.

Julia, who passed away in 2012 at 13, had just one wish, that children battling the disease would never be alone in the hospital as they underwent lengthy treatment.

Her parents and sister, Heather, Mike and Alyssa Malsin, along with a group of dedicated community members, established the Julia’s Wings Foundation in 2013 to provide financial assistance to families touched by aplastic anemia, raise funds for research and to increase awareness of the disease.

Since its inception, JWF has assisted over 60 families, partnered with 39 hospitals across the country and partnered with the Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Foundation to dedicate a total of $120,000 to aplastic anemia research.

Held in conjunction with the National Organization for Rare Diseases’ Rare Disease Day Feb. 28, Operation Wear Red offers many opportunities for people to get involved.

Schools, businesses and community groups planned activities including social videos, musical concerts, food and service specials, Wear Red days and exercise events.

Some participants include the Sherman School, New Milford High School, Immaculate High School, Brewster High School, Marist College Equestrian Team, the JCC in Sherman, the American Pie Co., the Sherman IGA, the Sherman Senior Center, Hair by Susi, Pamby Motors, Sacred Grounds Coffee Roasters, Creating Cadence, A Paw Print, Earthfit, Kathy Henkel Fitness and more.

Julia’s Wings is tracking national participation through an awareness map including groups from Canada, Washington State, Texas, Pennsylvania and New York.

The mayors of New Milford and Danbury issued proclamations naming Feb. 27 through March 5 as Aplastic Anemia Awareness Week in their areas, while the first selectmen in Sherman and New Fairfield recognized the day Feb. 23. The New Milford Village Green and town hall are lit red for the week.

“It is in Julia’s memory that we are providing hope for these families that have nowhere else to turn due to the rarity of the disease,” said Heather Malsin, vice president of Julia’s Wings Foundation.

“Most people have never heard of aplastic anemia, and funding just isn't available,” she said. “The way that people have stepped up to support our work is nothing short of remarkable. We are humbled and grateful. No parent should ever have to choose between caring for their child, paying their mortgage or putting food on the table.”