NASHUA – When Kyle Leblanc, 19, and his sister Alicia, 23, from Billerica, Mass, entered Mayhem Ink on Saturday, they had no idea a benefit for autism was happening.
“It was a nice surprise,” Alicia Leblanc said. “I think it’s wonderful that they are doing something like this. They need to do more things like this.”
Kyle, who said he’s “wanted to get (a tattoo) for a long time,” was getting his first tattoo, a Celtic cross in honor of his grandfather who passed away last month. His sister was getting the same tattoo.
The Leblancs were happy to say that their tattoos would help raise money for autism.
Elizabeth McMeniman is the mother of 5-year-old Nathan, who has autism. For the second year in a row, McMeniman partnered with Mayhem Ink owner John Martein to raise money for the event and to raise awareness about those with autism.
“It’s tough to have,” McMeniman said of autism. “Sometimes kids can’t go in stores because they’ll yell and people will look at you and make faces. It’s good to educate the public about it.”
In addition to the tattoo fundraiser, McMeniman and her family take part in the Walk for Autism Speaks, on a team named for her son.
They’ve seen some success, as last year’s tattoo event raised around $1,000 dollars, with 28 getting tattooed.
“We try to make it fun, and not so tattoo parlor-like,” McMeniman said.
The event was also kid friendly, with fake tattoos for children who attended with their parents.
There were also different raffles people could enter, including tickets to Canobie Lake Park and sports memorabilia from the Red Sox, Manchester Monarchs and Portland Seadogs. They were also raffling off a sky-diving package.
For Karen Butterfield, of Merrimack, she said this was the perfect time and place for her to get a tattoo.
“I’ve never had a tattoo before and this gave me a reason to get one,” Butterfield said.
Butterfield, along with her husband and two daughters, were all there to get the same tattoo, the iconic puzzle piece that represents autism, in honor of her 18-year-old son.
“It’s been a long road, and I wanted to have something with meaning,” Butterfield said of the new tattoo on her ankle.
She said she plans to come back every year the event is held and will get a new puzzle piece to fit into the last one until it wraps around her ankle. Each puzzle piece will be one of the different colors.
Marla Haddard, of Groton, Mass., has two children with autism, and she got a puzzle-piece tattoo on her ankle in honor of them.
“It’s important for people to understand. (People with autism) can have a tough time in public, and this can help (provide) support for research and grants for families who may need them,” Haddard said of the event.
Mayhem Ink was happy to host the benefit for autism, and has done so before for breast cancer and cystic fibrosis.
“I’m happy to do any benefit as long as it’s for a good cause,” Matrien said. “We do it at least three times a year for people.”
Matrien said he would likely continue to do the benefit in the future.