A tattooed and intimidating-looking man grinned happily as he and two others posed for a photo on small pink and red children’s bikes.
He then raised his bike, tassels flying, making play “vroom-vroom” noises at the camera.
It’s not a scene you see every day, but for the good-hearted members of Emerald Tattoo it was the latest — and one of the largest — gestures of kindness they practice on a monthly basis.
The tattooed volunteers make it their mission to highlight one special and deserving charity each month. On Wednesday morning they dropped off donations at Adopt A Child, the Lodi non-profit that helps spread Christmas joy to underprivileged families in town.
Along with the bikes, they brought a small mountain of unwrapped toys, including dolls, games and toy instruments.
“Next year we hope you won’t even see the Christmas tree, or just the top of it!,” Emerald Tattoo owner Josh Hughes said. “It’s important that kids get toys, and with the economy the way it is, not everyone can afford to buy gifts for Christmas.”
Emerald Tattoo, in partnership with Tap House Pizza, a local craft beer and pizza restaurant, collected donations from their customers for the toy drive. One ingenious way they gathered contributions was with their program. Tats for Toys. If a customer brought in a receipt for donated toys, then they received a gift card for the same amount to be used for their next tattoo.
“The tattoo community really comes together for this,” Hughes said.
During the short toy drive — Hughes estimates it lasted four days — they gathered four children’s bikes and hundreds of toys from about 100 of their customers. The nonprofit A Champagne State of Mind also contributed.
“This will help a lot,” said Dennis Jones, who sits on the board of directors of Lodi Adopt A Child.
“There are a lot of children’s toy wishes there,” Jones said as he motioned at the large pile in front of the Christmas tree. “It’s people like them that help make this organization prosper.”
The team from Emerald Tattoo has already set their sights on the coming year of fundraising. They like to highlight causes that are just as serious but lesser known — like lupus and cystic fibrosis — while also fundraising for breast cancer and autism.
“Breast cancer awareness is huge for us,” Hughes said. “And we have clients and family with kids with autism. We just want to give back to the community.”