AL teen pushes to create new colon cancer awareness car tag - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

AL teen pushes to create new colon cancer awareness car tag

Merrill Ann Culverhouse's latest endeavor is developing the first specialty license plate in Alabama promoting colon cancer awareness and screenings (Source: WSFA 12 News) Merrill Ann Culverhouse's latest endeavor is developing the first specialty license plate in Alabama promoting colon cancer awareness and screenings (Source: WSFA 12 News)
This is what the proposed specialty tag would look like. (Source: WSFA 12 News) This is what the proposed specialty tag would look like. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Merrill Ann and her father (Source: Culverhouse Family) Merrill Ann and her father (Source: Culverhouse Family)
Opp, AL (WSFA) -

An Opp High School student known for her charity work is continuing her efforts to make a difference, creating a new specialty license plate in Alabama to help a good cause. It’s to raise awareness of colon cancer and for her, the project is very personal.

Merrill Ann Culverhouse is a remarkable young woman. She’s only 16, and the junior at Opp High School has already done several very successful fundraisers in her community for Children’s Miracle Network, colon cancer awareness and Cooper’s Smile Foundation, a non-profit drowning prevention organization.

“I have designed t-shirts for multiple organizations, including my friend who has had cancer and a local child who has passed away from drowning. I’ve also raised $10,000 for Tuscaloosa tornado victims. I like to raise awareness for any cause I can,” the teen said.

Her latest endeavor is developing the first specialty license plate in Alabama promoting colon cancer awareness and screenings.

"I wanted to come up with a permanent source of funding in the form of a statewide specialty license plate to promote colon cancer awareness, raise funds to fight and treat it, and provide hope for colorectal cancer survivors and those affected by the disease," said Culverhouse.

She advocates for her dad, Merrill, who was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2013. They both traveled to Washington D.C. this past March with the Fight Colorectal Cancer organization to lobby for awareness and increased funding for colon cancer.

When they were in Washington, the Culverhouses met with Dr. Sam Pace and Dr. Roy Duhe' from Mississippi who are responsible for the first colon cancer tag in the nation. When Culverhouse returned home, she started the planning stages of the Alabama tag.

“If they can start it there, I figured why couldn’t I start it here? So I have started the second in the nation,” Culverhouse stated.

Her father was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 43. He had no symptoms until abdominal cramps sent him to the emergency room. He had surgery and fortunately, did not have to undergo any further treatments. He went on to make a full recovery.

“Statistically, I was too young to have colon cancer. I wasn’t even at the age to have a screening,” Mr. Culverhouse said. “When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you’re like a squirrel in the road. You don’t know which way to go. It’s emotional.”

Merrill Ann’s father is very proud of her efforts to shed more light on colon cancer and help families impacted by it.

”After I was diagnosed, she got Gov. [Robert] Bentley to sign a proclamation declaring March Colon Cancer Awareness Month in Alabama. She was 13 then,” he said. “She won a nationwide essay contest last fall that won her a scholarship so that she could go to Washington so she could petition Congress for increased funding and to remove barriers for older Americans that are on Medicare, preventing them from getting screened. She has a good heart.”

To make the specialty tag a reality, Merrill Ann has partnered with Rumpshaker Inc., the only state-wide non-profit dedicated to colon cancer issues.  

Rumpshaker Inc, formed by family and friends in memory of Lisa Martz in 2009, is a non-profit based in Birmingham. They are also dedicated to raising awareness and funds for colorectal cancer and providing support both financially and emotionally for patients and their families in Alabama.

“With your support of the Colon Cancer Awareness car tag, Rumpshaker Inc.will be able to use those funds to raise awareness about colon cancer throughout the state of Alabama and also assist colon cancer patients and their families,” said Amanda Vandegrift, president of Rumpshaker Inc.

In order to get the car tags in production, Merrill Ann needs 1000 people to pre-commit and purchase one by June of 2018.

“The faster we get 1000, the faster we can get them on the back of your car,” she said.

She’s helping a couple in Georgia create the nation’s third specialty plate for colon cancer.

“It was very dear to my heart and I want to raise awareness for that and also let people know that you do not have to be 50 to get a colonoscopy,” she added. “The design is blue. It talks about getting behind a cure and that’s what I want people to do with this.”

Pre-commitment purchases can be made by clicking here. Click on the second tab on the top of the page for 7/1/2017 to 6/30/2018.

It’s a  $50 commitment, then $50 renewal fee each year and $41.25 of the proceeds go to Rumpshaker, Inc.

Supporters will receive a voucher to obtain the plate once it goes into production.

Once the 1,000  pre-commitments are collected, the plates usually go into production within 2-3 months. After that, anyone can purchase that particular plate.

The plate design will be good for five years. The plate will have to be renewed annually and the $50 additional fee is due each year.

When asked why it is so important to raise awareness about colon cancer, Merrill Ann stated: “I think many people have a fear of having a colonoscopy so it is important that we dispel the misconceptions of that, but more importantly, with colon cancer being the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women combined; it is crucial to educate the public as to the importance of getting screened because if you are diagnosed early, you can beat this disease.”

Copyright 2017 WSFA 12 News. All Rights Reserved.

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