Samurai artists fighting against SMA


CANMORE – The artists of New World Samurai are working to raise funds to help support the treatment of spinal muscle atrophy (SMA) through a one-day fundraiser called Flowers for Callen, this Saturday (Sept. 8).

Event organizer and tattoo artist Jesse James Cartier has a deeply personal connection to the fight against SMA. The fundraiser is being held in honour of his nephew Callen, who was diagnosed with SMA last year shortly after birth, before dying of the disease. 

“My family has been affected by SMA, so it’s just something that touches home,” said Cartier. “There could be a cure for it, but there is no cure for it right now.

“My sister had a baby and we didn’t know until about a week after birth that he had SMA. I got to go meet the baby. We thought he’d be around for two years or so, but he only stuck around for about a month and a half. He couldn’t breathe on his own. That’s how it’s affected me and, having my nephew named Callen, the event is called Flowers for Callen, in honour of him.”

SMA is a genetic disorder that affects the function of proteins needed for motor nerve control. Although rare, it is the most common genetic disorder responsible for infant mortality. 

During the Flowers for Callen fundraiser, all funds raised from the tattooing of flowers will be donated to the Cure SMA foundation, a non-profit that helps fund research, as well as aid families battling the disease. 

“There’s a lot of gadgets these children need even to go to the hospital, like a bed in the car, breathing apparatuses, feeding tubes, all these kinds of things to help out the families. It would also be nice to help the family not feel obligated to have to go back to work right away,” said Cartier.

Even if not in the market for a tattoo, Cartier hopes people will come out and donate (749 Railway Ave., Canmore). He’s produced onesies in sizes up to two years of age, with a Flowers for Callen logo on them that customers can purchase to support the fundraiser even if they don’t want a tattoo. During the fundraiser, all eight artists at New World Samurai will be working, with walk-ins still available during the day. 

Cartier hopes to make the Flowers for Callen fundraiser a yearly event at New World Samurai, and to grow the event each year while partnering with more tattoo artists to help raise funds for Cure SMA. 

“I’ve been wanting to do this for a year now, but I haven’t been mentally ready for it until now. It means everything to me. I just know how much these families could use help … It feels good to have an opportunity to help. What we do in the Bow Valley, the best artists, everyone in the Bow Valley is amazing and to give a day toward that is super special.”

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Brandon Wilson

Brandon Wilson is a recent graduate from SAIT's journalism program. Before becoming a journalist he worked in a multitude of different industries, from equipment cleaning and truck driving, to the food service industry. Always open to having a coffee or reading a good book, don't hesitate to say hello if you see him on the street.