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Cancer Survivor Drives "Cure Childhood Cancer" License Plate Campaign

By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4)- This fall, drivers will be able to bring awareness to childhood cancer through their Colorado license plate.

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill Tuesday creating the new license plate. It is the culmination of a yearlong campaign driven by a teenage brain tumor survivor.

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(credit: CBS)

Every year, 15,000 families in the U.S. hear the devastating words "your child has cancer."

Fourteen-year-old Gabe Santistevan of Aurora hopes his license plates make people aware of that number and how tough cancer is for kids.

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Gabe Santistevan (credit: CBS)

"Every car I see, I can name the make, model, the year it was made," Gabe told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

The 8th grader is a car fanatic and he loves the license plate game.

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(credit: CBS)

"There are three letters in the license plate and we basically just try to make a word with those three letters in the word," Gabe explained.

But since age 9, the word on Gabe's mind has been cancer. He was diagnosed with Stage IV brain cancer. He had surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

CBS4 first met Gabe in 2014, when he was 10 years old and became an honorary Aurora police officer. He described his year of treatment.

Gabriel Santistevan
Gabriel Santistevan, 10, was sworn in as an honorary Aurora Police Officer (credit: CBS)

"It's just been brutal, really brutal," he said blinking back tears.

Today, Gabe will tell you cancer changed him forever.

"All my friends can go outside to recess pretty much do whatever they want," said Gabe, "I can't do everything that everybody else does."

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(credit: CBS)

Gabe's mom Kathleen said, a few years ago, seeing specialty license plates gave Gabe an idea.

"Can we make a license plate for childhood cancer in Colorado?" she said Gabe asked her.

One year and 8,000 signatures later, Hickenlooper signed a bill making Gabe's "Cure Childhood Cancer" license plates a reality.

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(credit: CBS)

"Still a fight?" Walsh asked Gabe.

"Yep," he answered.

"Every day?" Walsh added.

"Yep," he said.

Gabe will never be a carefree kid. But he'll be a proud young adult with a license to help others help children.

Gabe's new Colorado specialty license plates are expected to be available this fall. Proceeds from the purchase will benefit both The Morgan Adams Foundation and Cops Fighting Cancer.

LINKS: The Morgan Adams Foundation

Cops Fighting Cancer

Kathy Walsh is CBS4's Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 since 1984. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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