GET BEHIND A CURE: Opp junior needs help getting specialty tag

Published 1:57 am Thursday, July 6, 2017

A local high school student is looking to raise awareness for the disease that has touched the life of her family.

Colon cancer is one of the most common but also most treatable cancers, and Opp High School student Merrill Ann Culverhouse, recently secured development for the first specialty license plate promoting Colon Cancer Awareness and screenings in Alabama. This specialty license plate is also just the second in the entire nation to try and raise awareness for colon cancer.

Culverhouse, a 16 year-old OHS junior, is an advocate for her father, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2013.

“My dad is very close to me and is my best friend,” Culverhouse said. “So, it would touch my heart to be able to get this done, not just for him but for patients all over the state.”

Both she and her father traveled to Washington D.C., in March, with colon cancer advocacy group Fight CRC, to lobby for awareness and increased funding for the disease.

“When I had the opportunity to go to D.C. with Fight CRC, I met with two doctors from Mississippi who helped design the first car tag in the nation to raise awareness for colon cancer,” Culverhouse said. “It really surprised me that we didn’t have one in the first place. So, I decided to start one in Alabama and I’ve been working on it since March.”

Culverhouse and her tennis coach and graphic design teacher Nieko Lane designed the tag. She also partnered with Rumpshaker Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to colon cancer research and awareness.

The design was approved by the state and now Culverhouse has one year to secure 1,000 pre-commitments to buy the tag before they can be placed in courthouses for Alabama drivers.

“Rumpshaker Inc. has multiple fundraisers throughout the year, including one of the largest 5Ks in the state in March, and I’ll have a booth at those,” Culverhouse said of her attempts to get pre-commitments. “I was just at a GI conference in Destin and we’ll be going on local radio and TV and talking to newspapers. Basically, just getting the word out.”

The pre-commitments for the tag are $50 and then $50 renewal fees each year. $41.25 of those proceeds go to Rumpshaker, Inc. and their colon cancer research.

There must be 1,000 pre-commitments for the tag before the state will issue them to local courthouses to be sold.

“It would seriously mean the world to me,” Culverhouse said. “Not only is it close to my heart but it’s close to so many other people’s hearts as well.”

According to, colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women. It’s also the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the nation and the second leading among men. The disease is expected to cause more than 50,000 deaths during 2017, according to the website.

Despite all of that gloom, there is also a bit of sunshine as well. The death rate for colon cancer has been dropping in both men and women for multiple decades.

More early screening has caused the disease to be caught much earlier, thus a great chance to eradicate it, and treatment has vastly improved. According to the site, there are currently more than 1 million colon cancer survivors in the United States.

“I really just want to get the message out about this disease,” Culverhouse said. “It is very common but it’s also very common for people to overcome it, if they know the signs and symptoms and it’s detected early.”

To make a pre-commitment purchase visit