Inksters step up to help kids

Local tattoo shop spearheads art supply drive for Shriners Hospital
By: Paul Cambra, Features Editor
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utopia tattoo
Where:  885 Lincoln Way, Auburn 
Hours:  11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily 
Phone: (530) 823-8288
Power of art
What: Art supply drive for the Shriners Hospital for Children
When:  Now through April 16 
Items needed:  Infant rattles and other infant toys, craft kits, art sets, jewelry kits, tempura paint, watercolor paint, acrylic paint, watercolor paper, construction paper, glue, canvases (all sizes), pen sets, paint brushes, markers, pencils, etc. All donations need to be new and unopened; nothing containing latex, glass, fresh flowers or live plants.


For Joey Sprawka, owner of Utopia Tattoo on Lincoln Way in Auburn, it was more than just a way to give back. 
“I’m doing my part to create a better image for my industry in the process,” Sprawka said.
For the second straight year, his shop is collecting art supplies that will be donated to the Shriners Children Hospital in Sacramento. He and his fellow tattoo artists will deliver the goods on April 18, and while they are there, they will spend the day drawing, painting, coloring and giving a lesson in tattoo-style art.
Most of the children at the hospital are burn victims or amputees. Sprawka feels a certain kinship with the kids, and while he doesn’t downplay the seriousness of their situation, he sees a little common bond in there.
“We are two groups of people who are used to getting looked at,” he said. “We don’t necessarily look ‘acceptable’ by a majority of society standards.” 
For him, art is his safe place. It gets him through the day to day things. He said he can only imagine how art can help someone who is bedridden, dealing with stomach-turning, unthinkable things.
Tattoo artist Nick Stephenson went along last year and plans to go again in April.
“People ask me ‘Don’t you break down when you get there?’” he said, “But all the kids are having a good time, they have the coolest nurses.” 
They are a little slower with donations this year. Last year donations were flying in at this time they said.
“It’s really sweet when people come in with armfuls of supplies,” Stephenson said. “It’s the community coming together. It was really cool last year, loading up two cars full.” 
Sprawka plans to keep doing this every year until he can no longer.
“I really, really would like for people to step up with this,” he said. “We as a small town can make a huge impact. It can be life changing on both sides. I encourage small – and big – businesses to make a donation. We are the leaders of the community.” 
Last year they raised the largest single art supply donation the hospital has seen.
“Just one little tattoo shop,” Swarka said. “I’d like to double it this year. There are people out there who care.”