License plates for a cause

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BETHEL—Team Hailey Hugs, a six-year-old non-profit charitable organization that gives money to Maine families affected by childhood cancer, is looking for more people to apply for a childhood cancer license plate. The idea, which came to life in 2017, is nearing the end of its two-year window for promotion. Hoping to get 2,000 applicants by June of next year, Tabaitha Steward of Bethel, who is heading the cause, said she only has received only 600 applications so far.

“We need 1,400 more and we have six months to do that,” Steward said. “I’m hoping we can at least get our area on board of helping us get these plates.”

Steward has promoted the license plates through Facebook, posters, and has spent the last two election days at the polls at Crescent Park School (CPS) putting the word out. Steward has also been on radio and television explaining the license plates. Steward plans to go back to CPS this year.

It costs $25 to apply for a license plate, with the purpose of informing the state. Steward elaborated on the process.

“These plates will help families so when you spend their $25 to apply for the plate you get that $25 back in a voucher,”Steward explained. “It’s just you giving us the $25 to let the state know that they are going to get a plate.”

Steward said when the plates are being made, applicants will receive a voucher in the mail. People then can go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get their plates. Each person who has a specialty plate will pay a $15 fee for it each year. The $15 will fund childhood cancer. Steward said if they can get more people to apply, the cause has a chance of making $200,000 a year.

The proceeds will go to Team Hailey Hugs, which will then distribute the money to families and to childhood cancer research being done by Maine Children’s Cancer Program and the Eastern Maine Medical Center Cancer Care Center. Steward stressed that the money going to research will only be used for research purposes.

The design of the plate was originally made by Steward’s daughter, Hailey, who lost her battle with B-Cell ALL Leukemia in September of 2017. The design was then shown to Marybeth Ray, a graphic designer from Bryant Pond, who helped put it together. A unique feature of the plate is the two butterflies hovering around Maine, which Steward said her daughter related to children who had “gone to heaven.”

If Team Hailey Hugs gets 2,000 applicants by the end date, they will have raised $50,000 to go towards producing the plate. Steward said there’s a possibility they could have an extension granted, if the state believes the organization is close to reaching its goal by the end date next year.

Team Hailey Hugs helped 65 families in the state last year, ranging from Fort Kent to St. George and all the way back to Bethel.

Maine currently has the sixth highest rate of pediatric cancer in the country.

For more information, people can contact Steward at 281-917-5331 or email at TabaithaSteward@HaileyHugs.org.

swheeler@bethelcitizen.com

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