New Kansas license plate will help raise money for childhood cancer research

By: - May 26, 2021 4:25 pm

Braden’s Hope for Childhood Cancer and Kansas legislators unveiled the design for a distinctive license plate authorized in House Bill 2166. The fees collected for the plates will go toward childhood cancer research. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — In 2009, at just four weeks old, Amanda Gray’s son Chase was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer of the soft tissue muscles. His treatment plan consisted of eight different chemotherapy drugs.

Ultimately, none of the eight drugs provided Chase with a cure, Gray said. A 16-hour surgery that removed not only the tumor growing along his spine but also eight ribs and six vertebrae turned out to be his cure.

The surgery ultimately saved her son’s life, but Gray said it left him with severe scoliosis, myelopathy, kyphosis and restrictive lung disease. She said a severe lack of funding for childhood cancer research was the primary reason this was the only option to save his life.

So, from her son’s bedside at Children’s Mercy Hospital, where Chase was undergoing preparation for his final spinal surgery — his 36th surgery in total — Gray wrote to the legislature along with other parents children fighting cancer. Her testimony was in support of a bill authorizing the creation of a distinctive license plate to raise money for childhood cancer research.

“Chase deserved better. Actually, all children with childhood cancer deserve better,” Gray said Wednesday on the south steps of the Capitol building. “Chase’s only treatment option shouldn’t have been so barbaric. Kansans can do better.”

House Bill 2166, a package of distinctive license plates, officially cleared the Legislature after a vote to override a veto by Gov. Laura Kelly. The governor had vetoed it in response to a particular license plate bearing the Gadsden Flag, which has ties to a slave owner.

Amanda Gray spoke from experience about the impact of limited treatment options for many forms of childhood cancer. She said had there been more funding, her son Chase might not have required the grueling treatment he has undergone. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

The license plate package also includes plates to support educators and veterans.

Gray was joined by members of Braden’s Hope for Childhood Cancer, the Kansas City area organization sponsoring and leading the charge on the license plate, and several legislators at the statehouse to unveil the license plate design.

Drivers who purchase a license plate will have to pay an annual fee, and those proceeds will go to research organizations working with Braden’s Hope.

“We’re not only going to have targeted treatments for our kids because we’re going to raise funding, but we’re also raising awareness,” Gray said.

The National Cancer Institute estimated more than 15,000 children in the United States and adolescents ages 0 to 19 will be diagnosed with cancer each year and 1,780 will die of these diseases. All childhood cancer research combined receives less than 4% of the total cancer research budget, according to the NCI. 

Globally, more than 300,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year, according to the American Childhood Cancer Organization. Over the past 40 years, the number of children diagnosed with leukemia has increased by 35%.

Deliece Hofen founded Braden’s Hope after her son, Braden, battled two forms of cancer — one diagnosed when he was 3 years old and the second caused by the treatment for his first type of cancer.

She said having this license plate to support ongoing research with the University of Kansas Cancer Center and Children’s Mercy Hospital would raise approximately $12,500 each year toward therapies for these children.

“We have children from all over the state and all over the country that have childhood cancer,” Hofen said. “So that’s something that’s going to be awesome is that no matter what corner of the world you’re from, people are going to hear about children with cancer.”

Sen. Elaine Bowers and House Speaker Ron Ryckman joined Braden’s Hope at the statehouse in Topeka to present a certificate commemorating the passage of the license plate bundle and to reinforce the importance of funding treatments specific to childhood cancer. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

Sen. Elaine Bowers, a Concordia Republican who serves on the Senate Transportation Committee, shared a personal story as a parent of a 10-year-old boy diagnosed with cancer. Luckily, they had adequate funds and a good medical team to treat him, she said.

“That was 17 years ago, so I’ve been right in your shoes when we talk about this,” Bowers said to the mothers with children fighting cancer. “I think the motto here is to never give up fighting these diseases or on the legislative process.”

House Speaker Ron Ryckman was also on hand to present Braden’s Hope for Childhood Cancer with a certificate honoring the passage of House Bill 2166. Braden’s Hope works to raise awareness and funds for research of targeted therapies that “shut down the activators” of childhood cancers.

“Thank you for letting us be a part of it. We’re so proud of what you do, and we know your hearts are bigger than this building behind us,” Ryckman said.

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Noah Taborda
Noah Taborda

Noah Taborda started his journalism career in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri, covering local government and producing an episode of the podcast Show Me The State while earning his bachelor’s degree in radio broadcasting at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Noah then made a short move to Kansas City, Missouri, to work at KCUR as an intern on the talk show Central Standard and then in the newsroom, reporting on daily news and feature stories.