Plates drive funds, awareness
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Instead of the license-plate state game, try the specialty plate game for the more than 200 different types of Virginia license plates: What does it mean? Who is it for?
For example, the pink ribbon is synonymous with breast cancer awareness worldwide, but a single Virginia organization is behind that specialty license plate.
“It took two years to get us in the system,” said Katy Sawyer, executive director of the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation. “Our goal was to raise awareness about breast cancer.”
The plate has a pink ribbon and the foundation’s logo, “Educate. Advocate. Eradicate.”
Department of Motor Vehicles media liaison Sunni Brown said the pink-ribbon plate generated $155,385 for the foundation last year and currently has 10,155 registrations.
Sawyer said the plate provides one-third of the
foundation’s operating budget.
“It’s a great tool, and it’s pretty high-profile,” Sawyer said. “My daughter and I will be driving and count how many we see, because it’s so prevalent.”
The plate, which was originally conceived in 2000, required a delegate’s sponsorship and several-hundred prepaid orders before it could hit the road. It was sponsored by Delegate Kirk Cox of the 66th House District.
However, Cox said the credit belonged to the two women who brought it to his attention: breast cancer survivors Libby Gatewood and Rebecca Morris.
“They came to me and asked ‘What can we do to raise money for educational awareness?’” Cox said. “They knew I’d been interested in breast cancer awareness.”
Cox’s primary role was to bring the plate’s implementation in as a bill on the Transportation Committee.
For this plate, it was almost a formality: The 25-member committee unanimously approved the plate.
“What they’re looking for are plates they think are going to be really viable,” he said. “They’ve got to be a cause a lot of people are really willing to rally behind.”
Gatewood, a Colonial Heights Realtor, is still a breast cancer awareness advocate.
Though she is no longer on the VBCF’s board, she continues to “work in the shadows” of the organization.
“It was very moving when Kirk brought [the bill] to the floor,” Gatewood said. “It touched a lot of people and was really heartwarming.”
Morris, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995, died at age 67 in 2010 after a recurrence of the disease. Gatewood said that, as an advocate, Morris did many great things for breast cancer awareness.
“I think it shows you what a devastating disease it can be,” Delegate Cox said, “when one of the women who helps create this can pass.”
Since the plate’s introduction in 2002, it has garnered approximately $1.06 million for the foundation with more than 71,000 plate registrations.
So called revenue-sharing plates are primarily for Virginia colleges and nonprofit organizations. According to Brown, there are approximately 235,000 vehicles registered in Virginia with revenue-sharing plates.
Those plates provided “nearly $3.5 million dollars for participating organizations.” The program, which began in 1992, has collected more than $36 million for participants.
Revenue-sharing plates in Virginia provide money to the sponsoring organization that facilitated the plate’s creation.
More than 6.4 million Virginia license plates are registered and road-ready today. Of that number, a little over 1.1 million are designated “special plate registrations,” which are for plates like the Jamestown, Heritage or Clean Special Fuel plates.
In Virginia, the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation have revenue-sharing agreements with the DMV. That money goes toward disease research and awareness campaigns.
Before the Department of Motor Vehicles authorizes a specialty plate, the following must be completed:
A state senator or delegate must sponsor a bill calling for the new plate.
That bill must pass through the General Assembly and gain the governor’s authorization, which is effective July 1 of the same year.
The organization or agency behind the plate must facilitate the collection of 450 prepaid applications from individuals with active vehicle registrations.
Organizers must also coordinate with the DMV on the plate’s design, which must meet road-appropriate specifications.
Find a full list of specialty plates at dmv.virginia.gov/vehicles.
Dawnthea Price: email@example.com