Tattoos help solidify moms’ bond, helps raise awareness



Three small arrows near their wrist will go a long way in bringing awareness to a cause close to their hearts.

Angie Schepman of Crothersville, Mary Carlson, Cassondra Kelly and Amie Helton, all of Seymour, and Regina Buck of Columbus recently walked into Beauty from Ashes Tattoo Parlor in Crothersville knowing each other through networking on social media.

Some of them were meeting in person for the first time.

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Now, their friendship will be as permanent as the fresh ink of their matching tattoos.

Kyle McIntosh, owner and artist at the Crothersville shop, recently applied “The Lucky Few Tattoo” for the women, who each have a child with Down syndrome.

They join a nationwide movement of people receiving the tattoo.

According to the National Down Syndrome Society, in every cell in the human body, there is a nucleus where genetic material is stored in genes. Genes carry the codes responsible for all of a person’s inherited traits and are grouped along rod-like structures called chromosomes. Typically, the nucleus of each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent.

Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21.

The additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. Common physical traits of Down syndrome are low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes and a single deep crease across the center of the palm, according to the National Down Syndrome Society.

Each person with Down syndrome, however, may possess these characteristics to different degrees or not at all.

The #TheLuckyFewTattoo movement started at a Ruby’s Rainbow retreat in Austin, Texas.

As a group of nearly 20 mothers of children with Down syndrome connected and discussed the “fierce love” they felt for each other, one of the women, Mica May, suggested getting matching tattoos to commemorate their friendship, according to an article at

May talked about a recurring dream in which three arrows shot out of her arm, but she was unsure of its meaning.

The women pointed out Scripture verses and the reference of three for trisomy-21 — the most common form of Down syndrome. May took a Sharpie and drew tattoos on everyone to get an idea of what they would look like.

They decided to have the tattoo be three simple arrows in a row to “symbolize the three 21st chromosomes and how we rise up and move forward,” according to the article.

Since they couldn’t find a tattoo artist to accommodate the large group, the women flew back to their homes and had the tattoos done.

May and seven other moms were the first ones to get tattooed.

From there, it took off with hundreds of parents of children with Down syndrome getting the tattoo and posting pictures online. Family members and friends have joined the movement, too.

McIntosh had 10 people come into his shop to get the tattoo a week before the five women.

They saw the story on Facebook, and Schepman sent the other moms a message about doing it together. They immediately jumped on board.

Since she already has a couple of tattoos, Buck said she knew the three small arrows wouldn’t be painful.

“That pain doesn’t cross my mind,” she said. “What we’ve gone through in our lives and in our struggles, you don’t look at obstacles the same anymore after you get a diagnosis for your children. If you get a diagnosis for your child, you just don’t take on life the same. And Mary and I are both cancer survivors, so it’s all how you look at life.”

Buck’s 11-year-old daughter, Abby Hammack, has mosaic Down syndrome, and her son has autism.

The tattoo gives her an opportunity to talk about Down syndrome, which she said isn’t done enough.

“Down syndrome forever changed my life, but it changed my life for the better,” she said.

It made her a better and more accepting person, deepened her relationship with Christ and brought her and the other moms together, she said.

“We met today, but we have so much in common that you can start up a conversation with somebody and literally feel like there’s no judgment, there’s a sense of understanding and you’re with somebody that is going to listen to your story and you can listen to theirs,” Buck said.

“Can you imagine what it’s like for us when people on the outside see us at the grocery store and see our kids acting up or just looking different or just staring, like, ‘What is that?’ or ‘What are you doing?’ or ‘Why aren’t you going home?'” Buck said. “That’s what that is.”

Fortunately, she has the other mothers to lean on when times get tough, and it’s comforting knowing her daughter is well-known at her school and in the community.

“She has people that watch over her,” Buck said. “All of our girls are friends, and when they get together, they are a force.”

Carlson already has a blue and yellow ribbon tattoo on her wrist to bring awareness to Down syndrome, so she didn’t mind getting another tattoo in honor of her daughter, Claire, 12.

“She likes this one,” Carlson said of the ribbon tattoo, “so I’m sure she’ll love me having another one for her.”

One time, Carlson was at a hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, when a nurse recognized the ribbon tattoo because of her son having Down syndrome.

Carlson said the arrows tattoo is another way to educate people about Down syndrome.

“Hopefully, more people see that and understand it,” she said.

Minutes after posting a picture of her first tattoo, Kelly said several people asked about its meaning.

“It just reminds me of how lucky I am and blessed in reality,” she said. “We are a tribe. We are together. No matter if I have met them or not, they know what I’m going through, and it’s like we’re long-lost sisters. We stick together. We know what each other is going through.”

When her son, Carter, 4, was diagnosed with Down syndrome, Kelly said she had mixed emotions.

“Your whole world comes crumbling, but then you quickly realize how lucky you are, that every day is a struggle, but every day at the end of the day, you realize how blessed you are,” she said. “They bless you so much more than you could ever bless them.”

Kelly said it’s great to have the other moms as friends.

“It’s just good to have the lucky few that can support you and provide encouragement when you’re feeling down and think you can’t do it anymore because it isn’t easy,” she said. “This tribe that we have lifts each other up morally and provides support for us. … I have them to lean on.”

Schepman said the big picture is finding research to end Down syndrome.

“For me, I am advocating for my daughter and the fact that she has a right to live and should not be treated differently,” she said of her daughter, Anna, 8.

Schepman said it’s frustrating to see other countries making mothers feel ashamed for having a child with Down syndrome.

“When I wear it, I wear it for a pledge,” she said of the tattoo. “I’m pledging that it’s a journey I didn’t ask for or that I didn’t want, but my goodness has the ride been fun.

“(Anna) brings so much life to our place and our family and has brought me to these women that I would not have known if it wasn’t for Anna,” she said. “My daughter is somebody, and she is alive, and she is wanted, and she brings beauty wherever she goes.”

Helton said getting the tattoo with the other women gave her a feeling of togetherness, she said. Her daughter, Makenna, 4, has Down syndrome.

“I feel more accepted, more a part of the group now that I’ve done this with these girls that I don’t see often,” Helton said. “They help me a lot with stuff — what to do with schools, doctors. They give me advice.”

Every time she looks at the tattoo, Helton said she will think of her daughter and the other mothers.

“It was a great experience,” she said.

McIntosh said he had fun doing the tattoos. Both groups included people who hadn’t met in person, and for most of them, it was their first tattoo, he said.

“It’s such a meaningful movement that’s behind it … to see that the walls of discrimination are going down and the more people that get this, the more people are going to see there’s an understanding,” he said.

“I love the fact that it is a symbol and it’s not words,” he said. “People have to ask you, ‘What is that on your arm?’ and you have to explain it to them, which is a good thing because the more people that are explaining this situation and what this means, the more people that are being educated without them even knowing it. It’s amazing for me. I’m humbled big time that I get to be a part of it.”

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“It’s just good to have the lucky few that can support you and provide encouragement when you’re feeling down and think you can’t do it anymore because it isn’t easy. This tribe that we have lifts each other up morally and provides support for us. … I have them to lean on.”

Cassondra Kelly of Seymour said of having the support of other local moms of children with Down syndrome

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For information about the National Down Syndrome Society, visit


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