When she’s wearing shirts with sleeves, like her scrubs, most people would never realize that University of South Dakota nursing student Candi McIntosh’s arms are tattooed.
McIntosh, 31, of Rapid City has a total of 15 tattoos. She also has five piercings. That’s what makes her a perfect candidate for the Dakotas Chapter of the Modified Dolls — a nonprofit dedicated to making a difference in the community through volunteerism and fundraising events. Members must be women who are at least 18 years old. They also must have five or more visible tattoos or piercings to be involved, since the mission of the organization is to break negative stereotypes by “the different making a difference.”
“Currently, we have 12 members – and five of those members are on our board of directors,” explained McIntosh, the president of the Dakotas Chapter. “We are always taking applications, but we ask that women apply only if they are genuinely interested in making a difference in the community. This takes hard work and commitment, including quarterly meetings and monthly events.”
McIntosh said the Modified Dolls are a diverse, professional group of women – some who are single, some who are married, and some who have children – who go through background checks and probationary periods before they are allowed into the organization. “We don’t tolerate drama or illegal activities,” she said. “We want to show that professional, respectable and community-oriented women can have tattoos and piercings.”
Frances Powell founded the Dakotas Chapter of the Modified Dolls in July 2012. The organization was originally established earlier that year by a tattooed nurse in Washington state, who, like McIntosh, wanted to prove that tattoos aren’t trashy. The organization has expanded to include chapters all over the United States, as well as in England and Australia.
Nationally, the Modified Dolls support a different cause or charity each month, from which the Dakotas Chapter picks a related local charity for which to raise awareness and funds.
Out of all the events McIntosh has helped organize in the past two years, she has a difficult time picking favorites. Her eyes glow when she describes how the Dolls have helped the community.
“We paired with Rushmore Ju-Jitsu to host a free self-defense class for women to support the cause Not for Sale, which works to prevent human trafficking and sexual abuse. Over 90 women showed up! And even better, Rushmore Ju-Jitsu now offers a refresher class once a month for women who are interested,” McIntosh said.
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For Adopt a Hero month, the Dakotas Chapter orchestrated Pinups for Soldiers, an event where local ladies paid a fee to have professionally-styled pinup photographs taken. The Dolls raised almost $1,500 and sent 24 care packages to deployed U.S. soldiers.
In April, the Dolls joined with Black Hills Tattoo and Piercing to organize a “flash tattoo” event for their No Hate cause. Customers were able to select pre-drawn pride-themed tattoos for $50 – and by the end of the event, the Dolls donated $500 to the Black Hills Center for Equality.
“I was the first person through the door to get a tattoo,” said David Patton, president of the BHCFE. “I got a rainbow heart over my heart, which stands not only for my marriage, but my support for marriage equality. This was a great event because it allowed people to show support for our cause in a tangible way. The Modified Dolls are a terrific group of women doing terrific things in the community, and we’re grateful that they’ve done so much to help validate our cause.”
The Dolls have teamed with many additional area businesses and organizations to raise money for causes, including Freedom Tattoo, Bad Cat Tattoo, Rushmore Rollerz, The Buffalo Chip, Working Against Violence Inc. (WAVI), Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA), the Humane Society of the Black Hills, Tough Enough to Wear Pink, Rapid City Summer Nights, Rapid City Rush, Feeding South Dakota, March of Dimes South Dakota and Special Olympics Black Hills.
“Essentially, we’re a nonprofit helping all other area nonprofits,” McIntosh said. “Creating this chapter was a rough road, full of blood, sweat and tears, but we truly love what we do and want to help others.”
When she’s not busy with Modified Dolls activities and nursing school, McIntosh runs her own photography business in Rapid City – Eli Kyle Photography. She is also a mother to son, Joshua, 4, and a wife to John, who is an assistant chaplain in the U.S. Air Force. The couple moved to Rapid City five years ago from Louisiana when her husband was stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base.
“My husband doesn’t have any tattoos,” said McIntosh with a smile. “But he loves mine. They make me who I am.”
For more information about The Modified Dolls visit themodifieddolls.org or find the Dakotas Chapter of the Modified Dolls on Facebook.