Updated March 26 at 6:25pm

Dueling breast cancer license plates


PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island now has two separate, competing license plates to support breast cancer awareness.

The first, from the Rhode Island Breast Cancer Coalition, which bills itself as the state’s only breast cancer advocacy group, is listed on the R.I. Division of Motor Vehicles website. The license plate was launched in October of 2011 with the help of First Lady Stephanie Chafee.

A second breast cancer license plate, also supporting breast cancer awareness, was introduced on Oct. 3, this time with the help of Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee. The second license plate is being sponsored by the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation, which holds an annual “Flames of Hope” celebration.

Both plates will cost $41.20, with $20 going as a charitable donation. To go into actual production, each plates needs to have 900 orders in advance. Neither has yet to achieve that goal.

The dueling license plate proposals reflect underlying strategic differences between the two groups.

The R.I. Breast Cancer Coalition, in partnership with the National Breast Cancer Coalition, has developed a plan of action that focuses on primary prevention, stopping women from getting breast cancer, and understanding and preventing the spread of cancer through metastasis, which is responsible for 90 percent of breast cancer deaths.

At the urging of state coalition director Marlene McCarthy, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse introduced legislation, S. 3237, to create a commission tasked to identify promising research, encourage partnerships between the government and the private sector, and create opportunities for collaboration across scientific disciplines. The goal is to end breast cancer by 2020

“We’re tired of hope. Hope is but a wish,” McCarthy told the Providence Business News in July. McCarthy likened the challenge of ending breast cancer to putting a man on the moon or developing a polio vaccine. She dismissed the idea of potential failure to meet the goal, saying: “We have already failed. All the walks, all the races, and we still don’t know what causes breast cancer.”

In contrast, the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation, held its 7th Annual Flames of Hope: A Celebration of Life,” on Oct. 5-7, hailing the event as the largest breast cancer awareness event in the Northeast, with the goal of turning Providence into “the pinkest place on the planet,” according to the group’s news release.

Marie Gemma, the foundation’s executive director, described her group’s proposed license plate as “a great way for Rhode Islanders to get their pink on and, more importantly, help support crucial early detection, which can save lives.” The charitable donation from ordering the plate will go to support the R.I. Department of Health’s Women’s Cancer Screening Program, which helps to provide access to mammograms for uninsured and underinsured women between the ages of 40 and 49.


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