Bill for Alzheimer’s license plates moves though Kan. House with unanimous vote

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Jennifer Nauertc and her father, Bill Freeman

Jennifer Nauertc and her father, Bill Freeman

TOPEKA, Kan. — A lot of drivers like to support the things they love with decals on their vehicle. When you drive through Lawrence, you’ll no doubt see a lot of Jayhawks stamped onto license plates. Missouri recently made license plates available with the Royals logo.

Now one Kansas woman has been working to get a license plate that supports a cause very dear to her heart. She’s hoping to get a stamp for people who have been affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

Jennifer Nauertc has been on a mission to get approval from Kansas lawmakers for a license plate logo to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease. On Tuesday, a vote in the Kansas House of Representatives got her one step closer to her goal.

House Bill 2473 was introduced to legislators on Jan. 19, with the goal of creating “distinctive license plates”  and raising money to support the Alzheimer’s association.

Nauertc’s father, Bill Freeman, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about five years ago. It was an incredibly painful, emotionally-taxing ordeal seeing the disease take such a toll on her father. She said the disease doesn’t just affect the person with it; it affects the whole family.

Freeman passed on Dec. 18, and Jennifer decided to do something both to honor her father, and to help support other families dealing with Alzheimer’s. So she picked up the phone and called Peggy Mast, her state representative.

“I told her my goal and she immediately said ‘yes,'” Nauertc said. “She told me to get as much support as I can, and can’t count how many hours I’ve put in, but people have just come out of the woodwork to help. It’s unreal the support I got.”

The support came from strangers hoping to benefit Alzheimer’s awareness, as well as from those who knew her father throughout his lifetime — a life remembered for his achievements as a football coach at Lawrence High School, where Freeman led his team to multiple state titles and eventually earned a place in the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Nauertc decided the license plate would be a great way to honor her father, to raise awareness for the disease, and to raise money to find a cure. Proceeds from the sales of license plates will go to an “Alzheimer’s disease awareness royalty fund,” which the state treasury would create upon passage of the bill.

“They’ve got plates for KU, K-State, breast cancer. Why not this?” Nauertc said. “And every time I see a plate, I’ll know that I was part of that; that he was part of that.”

Nauertc said Tuesday was a day full of tears. Her mission took its biggest step forward when it passed the House with a unanimous vote, 125 – 0.

To show how far Freeman’s legacy reached, Tuesday’s vote was introduced by representative Barbara Ballard, whose son was a Lawrence High quarterback under Freeman.

Rep. Peggy Mast, Jennifer Nauertc, and Rep. Barbara Ballard

Rep. Peggy Mast, Jennifer Nauertc, and Rep. Barbara Ballard

Nauertc said, “if I can be the voice or advocate for others going through this, then that’s what I want to do. I think this is part of my grieving process,” adding, ” I hope my efforts in getting this bill passed may lead the way for others states to do the same, as this disease needs our help with more research and funding. I’ve had several people contact me wanting info on how to make this happen in their state.”

The bill now moves to the Senate Transportation Committee, where Nauertc said she hopes to see a vote in the next couple weeks, and where an approval would send it to the Kansas Senate. If it passes there, it will move to the final step: a signing by Gov. Sam Brownback.

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