Shortly after losing his father to lung cancer tattoo artist Adam Guyot had a dream that haunted him and eventually would spur him to jump into philanthropy. In the dream he saw a man wearing a shirt with the words “Tattoos Cure Cancer” emblazoned upon it. The idea was marinating in the back of Guyot’s head for almost 10 years as he built a family and a successful tattoo business.
“Last year my brother had a cancer scare—they thought he had a brain tumor but it ended up being an infection—and it became the catalyst that made me start the charity,” Guyot says. “I thought if I don’t do this now another 10 years will go by and I’ll be thinking coulda, woulda, shoulda. So I called my bookkeeper and we started Tattoos Cure Cancer in July 2013.”
For the first major event Guyot recruited 13 of his friends and brought them all into his tattoo shop to ink people with the special Tattoos Cure Cancer designs he had drawn up. Tattoo artists crammed themselves into Guyot’s shop and used every square inch of the place to tattoo people for a marathon session. When the day finally came to a close over $10,000 had been raised and Guyot realized how powerful his charity could become.
In order to spread the good word he has taken to the road and hit a scene that he had avoided for years.
“I had stopped doing the convention scene years ago,” Guyot explains. “You go to these shows and everybody is just mad-dogging everybody else; everybody is cooler than you are with the cliques and the scene. I was so over it.”
What Guyot would soon learn is that when presented with the opportunity to help out a cancer charity all of that tough talk and posturing would fade away as people were jumping at the opportunity to become involved.
“Tattooing has given me everything that I have,” Guyot says. “I’ve been doing it for 21 years and I have a shop here in my hometown that I opened in 1995. It keeps a roof over my head, it pays for food for my kids, it’s given me everything. If I can donate my time and use what I do everyday to give back to something else that’s bigger it’s good for me and good for tattooing.”
When he approached other artists about helping out with TCC he found that most of them shared his feelings and they were eager to help in anyway they could. Guyot has chosen to enlist their help in creating shirts like the one that he had seen in his dream.
“We would like to have a different shirt design come out every three or four months,” Guyot says. “We want to be able to keep raising money and digging into your pockets every couple of months by continuing to put stuff out there that people want. I want everything we do to have the integrity of what tattooing is supposed to be. If we make a shirt we want that to become your new favorite shirt not just something you bought to donate money.”
After seeing the amount of money that they were able to raise with only 13 artists toiling under one roof for one day Guyot wondered if there was a way that he could spread the goodwill. What if tattooers across the country could tattoo customers with the TCC designs and have the money go to charity 365 days a year? The charity is currently working on an app that will allow that to happen by providing a way for artists to download the flash and easily donate the money directly to the organization. By providing this app, throwing events, and creating the different shirts TCC has found a way to diversify the ways in which they are raising money. Additional ways to raise money leads to more money being raised and in the end that means more people with cancer will get the help that they need.
After hearing so many horror stories about charities only using a small portion of the funds for the intended purpose Guyot is dead set on making TCC as transparent as possible, ideally he’d like to be able to trace every dime donated in order to let people know exactly what good their donation was able to do.
“I talked to 10 different oncologists and asked them if they had a million dollars where they would put it,” Guyot says. “Every one of them said children’s hospitals. For the first benefit we donated all of that money to them and they were awesome. They send me updates about what exactly they are using the money for so they will always be a part of our family moving forward.”
In some of the donations going forward Guyot is hoping that the foundation can maintain a direct, personal link with those that they help out.
“We are trying to build up a big enough chunk of money in our bank account where we will be able to say to someone, ‘You need $30,000 to pay for your treatment and get well? Well, here’s 30 grand,’” Guyot says. “It would be great to be able to just help people actually pay for their treatment.”
TCC’s founding was driven by Guyot’s personal experiences with the disease; similarly his favorite part of doing the charitable work is the opportunity to learn how cancer touched the lives of others.
“Every single tattoo I do at the conventions has been amazing,” Guyot says. “You’re already a bit of a therapist as a tattooer anyway, once you start inking people they just unload on you. Every single person tells you their story and why they are getting the tattoo and who it’s for. It’s amazing to connect with so many different people over something like this.”
If you’re looking to be tattooed by Guyot for charity he’ll be hitting the road this year for stops at Bridge City Ink in Lake Havasu, Ariz., on May 18th and at the Boston Tattoo Convention in August. The charity hopes to have their app finished soon so that other tattooers can get involved and shirts by Guyot and Jeremy Miller can be purchased on the website. It is clear from the passion he exudes that Guyot will find more ways to raise money and do everything he can to help fight cancer.
“I don’t have a choice about doing this,” Guyot says. “If I wasn’t doing it I would be haunted by it every night. I have to do it.”