"The Survivor Sisters" Made California's "Pink Plates" a Reality

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Pink Plate to benefit women's program

When a group of women — self-named "The Survivor Sisters," because they're all cancer survivors — put their minds to something, that something got done.

That "something" was introducing the idea of a specialty license plate in California to increase awareness and funding for breast and cervical cancers, and support the Every Woman Counts program. Little did the women know that this would be a five-year journey through California's state legislature.

In 2012, Chere Rush, Heather McCullough, Joy Farris, Deborah Bordeau, Heather Solari and Carla Kimball — career women and mothers, approached then California State Assembly member, Joan Buchanan, about their idea. Buchanan fully embraced the concept and on December 21, 2012, introduced AB49 – The CA Pink Plate-Breast Cancer Awareness License Plate Bill into California legislation.  

A section of the bill reads:
This bill would require the State Department of Health Care Services to apply to sponsor a breast cancer awareness license plate program, and would require the DMV to issue the license plates if the State Department of Health Care Services meets certain requirements. The bill would authorize the State Department of Health Care Services to accept and use donated artwork from California artists for the license plate. The bill would require the revenue generated from the license plates, as specified, to be deposited in the Breast Cancer Control Account in the Breast Cancer Fund.

With 74 of the 80 Assembly members co-sponsoring the bill, it sailed through the Assembly. But the Transportation committee had a number of issues, particularly with the designated pink color of the plates. "We wanted our plate to be bold and stand out so it would bring attention and awareness to Early Detection," said Rush, one of the founding Survivor Sisters. The bill was amended slightly and then went through significant testing for safety, durability, and visibility. Upon passing all of these tests, the Legislative Council approved the design, including placement of the nationally recognized "pink ribbon."

 Pink Plate co-founders, Carla Kimball (center) and Survivor Sisters of Contra Costa County (L-R) Deborah Bordeau, Heather McCullough, Chere Rush and Heather Solari.  photo courtesy of pinkplate.org

Pink Plate co-founders, Carla Kimball (center) and Survivor Sisters of Contra Costa County (L-R) Deborah Bordeau, Heather McCullough, Chere Rush and Heather Solari. photo courtesy of pinkplate.org

Governor Jerry Brown ultimately approved the bill on September 16, 2014.  But "Pink Plates" did not just arrive in the mail that day. As with all new license plate introductions, a provision of the bill was that 7500 people had to pre-register and pre-pay for a "Pink Plate." Once that number was achieved, plates would be issued and the program would carry on.

"We had only won a battle in this fight to get Pink Plates accepted statewide," noted Carla Kimball, a Survivor Sister. "It was two years in the making, but now we had to get the 7500 pre-orders or the plates would never be seen, which was just not an option."

As part of the effort to secure the 7,500 pre-orders, Kimball enlisted her husband Kelly, Chairman of Motor Vehicle Software Corporation (MVSC), a Los Angeles-based technology company that supports auto dealership interactions with the DMV, and ships license plates and registrations in California (and other states). The MVSC team actively supported the program throughout the state through numerous activities, both public and private.

MVSC's actions included:

  • Designing, housing and managing the PinkPlate.org website
  • Collecting money on behalf of Health Care Services
  • Facilitating credit card fees
  • Placing a "Pink Plate" flyer with every standard license plate MVSC shipped in California (going out to 8000 people daily)

"This was truly a labor of love," shared Kelly Kimball. "Many of our employees have been touched by cancer through a family member, friend or co-worker." Embracing the cause, staff volunteered at Breast Cancer awareness events, walks, and other programs. They created social media groups on Facebook and Instagram.

Finally, in late 2017, MVSC took the additional step to donate over 2,000 Pink Plates, and with the support of many other organizations, the requirement of 7,500 pre-orders was achieved.

"When I first introduced this legislation five long years ago, I had no idea what this would turn into," stated Senator Buchanan. "I'm thrilled that the Pink Plates are available today to the thousands of Californians who want to support the Every Woman Counts initiative. Hopefully, this will get us one step closer to finding a cure."

As for the "Survivor Sisters," they are elated that what they started has come to fruition. Rush declares: "Early detection saves lives. Breast cancer doesn't come in a one-size fits all. It doesn't care about your age, sex, race, or family history. Anyone at any time can get breast cancer. This is why all of us are so passionate about our Pink Ribbon License plate. We know this plate can save lives daily."

Anabel Marquez