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Speak Up Ink Up advocates for foster children in Idaho through tattoos

Proceeds from every tattoo given during Saturday's event at Tattooed & Successful in Meridian went to the nonprofit CASA of Southwest Idaho.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — A tattoo is a piece of art - and a way to express yourself for the rest of your life. Tattoos also became a way for members of the community to express their support for foster kids on Saturday - while raising money for a good cause. 

Speak Up Ink Up is in its second year of advocating through art, getting rid of the stigma around tattoos, and helping be the voice of foster care children throughout Idaho.

"The turnout from the community, from the organizations, from the businesses that reached out to me wanting to be a part of it – it's just it's been mind-blowing," Speak Up Ink Up Founder Craig Petersen said. "It's been almost a dream."

Petersen has made that dream a reality. He said this year's Speak Up Ink Up aimed to raise $30,000 for kids in the foster system. 

"We want everyone that is suffering from injustices here in Idaho to know that there are people that see them, there are people that hear them, there are people out there fighting for them," Petersen said. "And we're here raising awareness."

Proceeds from every tattoo given during Speak Up Ink Up went to Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Southwest Idaho - a nonprofit that serves children who have been abused and neglected and placed in foster care. 

"Our ultimate goal is to see them wind up in a safe, permanent, loving home. Whether that's back with their parents or in adoption." CASA Of Southwest Idaho Executive Director Bekah Bowman said. "So, we get to journey that whole road with them."

Petersen is a Guardian Ad Litem for CASA of Southwest Idaho. 

"Every advocate or volunteer gets assigned a foster youth or a sibling set. We go with them, we check to make sure they're doing good in school, we're with them when they go to court, we're their voice," Petersen said. "Our whole goal is to make sure the child's best interests are being met, and they're getting all their needs met too."

Artists from Tattooed & Successful in Meridian offered flash tattoos throughout Saturday for Speak Up Ink Up. Some of the art on the flash sheet was designed by local foster kids. 

"We're trying to raise as much as we possibly can for them. It looks like we'll be able to help at least 30 kids for the next year," Tattooed & Successful Owner Zach Peterson said. "That's a pretty good feeling to be able to help 30 kids."

It costs about $1,200 for CASA to be able to advocate for a foster child for a year.

"We have the opportunity with this funding to go out and recruit more people, to bring in more resources to help these kids fill the gaps that are that they need," Bowman said. "Whether it's clothing and shoes, or an IEP plan at school - just somebody to advocate for them and make sure that they're seen."

A permanent mark - to help make a permanent impact on foster kids. 

"The more money we raise, the more lives we're going to save and impact, and give those children voices," Petersen said. "Let them know that they're loved - that Idaho cares, and we see them."

CASA of Southwest Idaho is in need of additional volunteers to advocate for foster children. Information on how to volunteer can be found here

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