St. John’s Tattoo fundraiser raises $70,000 for cancer patients
What began 13 years ago as a modest fundraiser for a tattoo parlor in St. John’s has now raised more than $70,000 for cancer patients in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Over the weekend, Trouble Bound Studio customers could get a cancer ribbon tattoo of their choice for $100 plus tax, with all proceeds going to Daffodil Place, a residence that provides cancer patients and their families with treatment in St. Johns.
According to studio owner Dave Munro, the community response to the fundraiser, which was held for the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, has exceeded all expectations. What he thought was a total of 10 tapes has turned into more than 650 and counting.
Munro said it felt good to hold the fundraiser again.
“We get all kinds of incredible stories. Some of them are really sad, some incredibly moving, some incredibly inspiring,” Munro said.
“It’s a roller coaster of emotions going through the day, but it’s such a monumental kind of roller coaster so it’s great for all of us to sort of go through it with them.”
The fundraiser is a personal matter for Munro, whose brother died 13 years ago from glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer.
The fundraiser, which falls on Munro’s brother’s birthday, is dedicated to him and all the other loved ones the studio staff have lost over the years.
“My brother was a very big community activist. And the idea of doing something that flowed back into the community was largely inspired not just by him, but by everyone in the studio who had suffered losses,” Munro said.
“It’s a way of celebrating your life by giving other people better opportunities to fight. And I can’t think of a better memorial.”
It was important to Munro that the proceeds from the fundraiser be donated to a cause that stays in the community.
“When you’re alone and dealing with that level of struggle, it’s difficult to take care of yourself, let alone monitor your meds and blood levels, come to appointments, remember things when you’re sick – how it’s so difficult,” Munro said.
“So the conceptualization was very based on us needing something that is practical. We need something that cares about people.”
Daffodil Place is one such facility, he said.
“It’ll help people make sure they’re eating, it’ll give them a support network, it’ll drive them to their appointments and make sure they’re okay by the end of the appointment… It was really a no brainer.”
Munro and the other tattoo artists in the studio were busy tattooing all day. About 35 clients were scheduled, including Kayla Hynes, who received a new black cancer ribbon in honor of her late grandmother, who died of squamous cell carcinoma, and Chelsea Pittman, who had her cancer ribbon colors retouched.
Another client was Kitty Whelan, who has metastatic breast cancer.
The fundraiser for Daffodil Place, Whelan said, meant everything to her.
“Every three months now I go to the cancer clinic with my metastatic breast cancer and get treatment,” Whelan said. “And to see all these people – some of them are really, really sick – to see that Daffodil Place is there to help them and give them a little relief from the funding and things and housing and everything too giving, it means the world to me because it helps. It helps a lot.”
When Whelan was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, she got her first cancer ribbon tattoo as part of the fundraiser. Then, in 2019, the breast cancer spread to her bones.
When she heard the fundraiser would be happening again this year, she knew she wanted a second ribbon for metastatic breast cancer as a show of her resilience.
“When I was first diagnosed I was obviously a little bit angry and frustrated, but that was a couple of years ago now,” Whelan said.
“So, I said, instead of being angry about cancer, I’m just going to embrace it and enjoy it and embrace it and do what I can and be happy. Because I really believe that the more you can be calm and less stressful and not bitter or angry, I think the better it is for your diagnosis anyway.
For Munro, it’s clients like Whelan that he runs the fundraiser for – and hearing stories like theirs is still emotional for him.
“I was more than suffocated. I had tears running down my face,” Munro said.
“You take someone like her who’s literally just in a constant state of celebrating life, you know, it resonates with you. … So to hear her and how strong and how powerful her message is to move forward no matter what the situation, it’s just heartwarming.”
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