MEDFORD, Ore. — When she was 15 years old, Seralynn Neal, an aspiring tattoo and piercing artist, ordered a do-it-yourself tattoo kit on Amazon and tattooed a large black widow on her left forearm.
"I was in a stage where black was all the rage," she said. "I had piercings all over my face, and I thought I was the coolest thing on this side of the sun. A black widow seemed dangerous."
In the years after, Neal continued to add ink markings to the canvas that was her body. She tattooed "Drop Dead" across her knuckles, an elaborate cross on her left hand, a heart on her ankle and a rose on her stomach. She also had someone else tattoo the Godsend symbol on her back and "Princess" across her knuckles over the text that was already there.
Then last year, while living at Hearts with a Mission, she decided she wanted to work toward becoming a probation officer. That meant her visible tattoos would have to go.
"It’s not that it would be difficult to get the job with my tattoos," she said. "I just don’t want this to be the image kids get from me."
She called tattoo removal services to get an estimate and learned it would cost her $300 a session per tattoo and each tattoo would require six to 10 sessions.
Over the summer, Neal was connected with Jay Tapp, a local business executive and former Kids Unlimited board member who sympathized with her situation and offered to help her out.Tapp said he’s worked with faith-based and community organizations in California and Southern Oregon and has seen people try to hide their tattoos, either because they were ashamed of their poor lifestyle choices or haunted by the memories associated with it. The tattoos could reference hate, drugs, violence, gangs or other criminal activity, or name an abusive ex-husband."Sometimes the tattoos are right out in the open and when people see those they make […]