James Flores is proud to share his bad boy gone good story.
The owner of Ruidoso's Scorpion Tattoos has been a member of the community for 16 years, but never in that time did he picture himself as a model citizen.
Flores laughed as he told the story of being recently called a pillar of the community. It's a title he is proud to own. Flores will tell you, as a youth, the only time he was in the newspaper, was if his name was in the police blotter. A far cry from today's business story.
Flores was inspired to create the February 18 inkforella fundraiser because, like 15-year-old Ellla Glass and her family, he too has been affected by cancer. Glass was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer, Ewing's Sarcoma. It's been a race for her and her family as she undergoes treatment in Denver.
"It's not something to ignore," Flores said about the family's plight.
"My aunt came up with breast cancer so I started this ongoing thing for giving back," Flores said. "I'm not making a great amount of money or anything. I'm not rich or well off, I'm just a surviving business owner so I think that's worth something. It's because of this community, they have supported me in everything I do."
"They've got my back here. I love the support of this small town."
It's not the first time he's created a fundraiser like this, but it's certainly the biggest one so far. After covering expenses, $9,000 was raised at the event, far surpassing Flores' expectations of bringing in $1,500.
Just two weeks into the original tattoo raffle fundraiser, Flores already had raised $1200. Building on that momentum, he decided to add to it. He joined forces with seven other artists to spend the entire day tattooing for Glass.
Word about the event spread like wildfire on social media and people were volunteering left and right to help. Everett Brophy, along with the White Apron Society, offered to prepare food. High school students sold baked goods, "Fight Like a Girl" tee shirts were sold. There was even live music.
"Within a few weeks, we had a full team," Flores said. "I was kind of surprised that people were that willing to work with each other. I've always had support for everything I've done in this town, but I've never had that much support. People were knocking down the door to try to be part of this."
When people were lined up for new ink at 8:30 a.m., Flores knew he was doing something much bigger than what had originally been envisioned. A family of three even drove nine hours overnight from Oklahoma to be a part of the day.
As the day turned into night and then morning just a handful of artists were still tattooing, but the group was determined to serve as many customers as they could. They finished up at 5 a.m. Sunday morning. As a group, the seven artists put fresh ink on 162 people. All to show support for a local teenage girl as she fights the battle of a lifetime.
"It's a small community, big hearts, lots of love in this area which is why I'm here," Flores said.
He also paid tribute to tattoo apprentice Logan Fleharty. Flores said he couldn't have pulled off the fundraiser without Fleharty's help and vision. Even now, Fleharty is continuing the fundraiser, offering tattoos for a $40 donation. The experience gives the apprentice much needed practice while supporting a good cause.