Breast Cancer Awareness License Plate Helps Raise Funds & Hope
Photographer / Angela Cornell
Breast cancer is an ugly disease. Even if the statistics weren’t frightening enough, the disease itself is. Everything changes when the diagnosis is given. Treatments typically begin immediately, and with them come many adverse side effects. That’s only what happens inside a victim’s body. Outside, family dynamics and finances can quickly become strained. Friends long to help, but few know how, and most are afraid to say or do something wrong.
The good news is prevention is an excellent offense, which is why the Indiana Breast Cancer Awareness license plate exists. This special recognition license plate exists mostly because of the efforts of a vivacious and beloved Plymouth High School home economics teacher, Nancy Jaynes. Her goal was to initiate a “rolling billboard” for breast cancer awareness, and create a fund to help others. Unfortunately, after battling cancer for many years, Jaynes lost her battle in April of 2008. Her loss is one that her friends and family still feel keenly.
Shelley Heiden, owner of Heiden Creative in Plymouth, is the commercial artist who Jaynes commissioned to design the license plate. Heiden’s involvement in the project is deeply personal.
“I had a mother-in-law and a sister die of cancer, and then Nancy Jaynes was a very dear friend,” Heiden says.
Jaynes and Heiden, together with the Indiana Breast Cancer Awareness Trust (IBCAT), spent years working on the design before plate sales began in 2002. From the beginning, Jaynes’ desire was to bring hope.
“We wanted it to be uplifting,” Heiden says. “There’s going to be a cure for cancer, so let’s keep that awareness up there and get it as high as we can get it – and prevent. Prevention is always better.”
Thousands of drivers have purchased breast cancer license plates throughout the last 18 years. Heiden herself has one, and the number two in her plate number has a special meaning.
“Nancy got the number one license plate, and I got number two,” she says.
Through plate sales, the IBCAT has benefitted thousands of people around the state by providing grants for breast cancer screening programs, as well as diagnostic and support programs. The Nancy Jaynes Memorial Scholarship is also available for Hoosier students with a parent who has succumbed to the disease, or is currently battling it. However, the fight to prevent breast cancer has only begun for many people.
Take Julia Ford and Bonita Beck, RN, of Knox. Their involvement began last year when they learned that they could make a difference in their county by partnering with the IBCAT and the Merit Foundation to provide mammograms for local women.
“LaPorte was doing mammogram vouchers for Starke County women,” Ford says.
“Their charter was such that they were not going to be doing it in 2020, so I picked up the flag, so to speak, for Starke County.”
Thanks to Ford and Beck’s efforts, local women can receive free mammograms from Starke County health providers if they meet the right criteria. First, they must be at least 40 years old or be in a high-risk breast cancer category. Second, they must be either uninsured or underinsured. Third, they must meet low-income requirements.
“Mammograms are the most basic things you can do for prevention,” Beck says. “It’s a great way to get involved in our community.”
As Ford and Beck look back on their first year as co-heads of the Breast Health Project of Starke County, they are pleased with the number of mammograms they have been able to provide for local women. As time goes on, Ford and Beck hope to provide more programs for Starke County residents, including screenings for other types of cancers.
These two women love that they get to benefit their community in a meaningful way. They also find it incredible that they are continuing a local woman’s legacy.
“This specialty plate originated from a Marshall County school teacher,” Ford says. “This is how the funds are channeled into the community.”
Breast Cancer Awareness plates are available at any Indiana BMV branch, or online, for $40. From that fee, $25 goes to the IBCAT for programs and scholarships. To learn more, check out the IBCAT online at breastcancerplate.org. To get involved in Starke County, contact the Breast Health Project of Starke County by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.