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An indelible mark

Tattoo fundraiser
While the pandemic put a pause on many in-person events, it gave rise to unique virtual fundraisers. Here’s how a silent auction of one-of-a-kind tattoo art is putting smiles on the faces of residents at Sunnybrook’s Veterans Centre.

With more than 200 tattoos on his body, Shaun Baldry has deep ties to the tattoo community. “It’s art that can’t be bought, or sold, or taken from me,” he says.

The young man also collects drawings and paintings from tattoo artists, many of which he’s purchased at fundraisers over the years. So when Shaun heard on the news in spring 2020 that elderly Canadians in long-term care homes and hospices weren’t able to have family visits as a result of the pandemic, he had an idea: he would create a virtual silent auction of tattoo art to raise funds to support. A few Google searches later, he knew where he wanted the proceeds to go: Sunnybrook’s Grant a Wish program.

“The tattoo community is made up of a lot of stand-up people, and they’ll go out of their way to help others out,” says Shaun.

Grant a Wish gives every resident in Sunnybrook’s Veterans Centre the chance to have a heartfelt request fulfilled. In the past, wishes have included sporting event tickets, big family dinners, even a helicopter ride – and smaller luxuries, too.

I heard one Veteran asked for maple walnut ice cream for lunch one year, it just melted my heart. I knew right then and there I wanted to support,” says Shaun.

Shaun reached out to dozens of people, with 45 tattoo artists across Canada and the U.S. eventually donating more than 75 items to be auctioned off. Many were unique pieces, with Remembrance Day themes. Some bigger names donated coveted tattoo appointments as well.

A sample of artwork auctioned off to help grant veterans’ wishes. Artists: Mike Kenny (left) and Melina Fusco (right).

The event ran exclusively online, with Shaun posting available art on Instagram. “The bidding opened on November 11th, at 11:11, after a moment of silence,” says Shaun.

Shaun far surpassed his original goal of $1,000, raising nearly tenfold to support Sunnybrook. Some Veterans reached out to him as well: “It was wonderful. Even Veterans who weren’t able to bid, reached out and thanked me for doing it,” he says.

It was such a success, Shaun plans to do a second online silent auction again this November. He says he’s pleased, but not surprised, that it was so well supported by his fellow tattoo lovers.

Artist of top image: Jean Frédéric