LivAbility Magazine
Aidan Ringo poses with a framed colored-in owl stencil design.

By Josh Chesler
Reprinted with permission from Phoenix New Times
Photo by Loren Worthington

Aidan Ringo is an 11-year-old fan of Star Wars, tattoos, and hockey. He also happens to be the founder of CPForce. Starting a nonprofit organization might seem like too big of a task for someone Ringo’s age, but he was inspired to help others, particularly given his own constant battles with cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

Ringo didn’t start CPForce on his own. He’s had plenty of help from his parents, Tyler and Tessa, and the inspiration behind the whole thing came from one of his favorite tattoo artists, Mikey Sarratt of Phoenix’s High Noon Tattoo. Tattoos and charity foundations don’t always go hand-in-hand, but the Ringo family is changing that.

The CPForce Foundation looks to improve the lives of kids with life-threatening and long-term disabilities through art, and it’s hosting its first art show on Friday, November 20, at the Revival Art Collective. But there are a couple things that set CPForce apart from similar foundations, one of which is obviously its founder.

“I came into the shop one time and I was sitting around [while Sarratt tattooed Tyler], and Mikey let me color in one of his Boba Fett [tattoo stencils],” Ringo says. “I asked him if I could color more of them, and Mikey said it was a great idea. I realized I could use it to help kids like me.”

Sarratt began providing Ringo with copies of more and more stencils to color, and eventually the two (and Ringo’s parents) began reaching out to others to help kids in similar situations. Aside from raising money for the children, Sarratt believes that the process of art itself is beneficial for them.

“It’s therapeutic for the kids, because they can get lost in it,” Sarratt says. “Also, as [CPForce] grows, it’s giving Aidan amazing people skills. I’m watching him grow as a person every time he comes in here.”

“When I pick up a pencil, it doesn’t even matter where I am,” Ringo says. “I’m in the zone. I’m coloring.”

While it wouldn’t be out of place for an art gallery to host an event for a nonprofit such as CPForce, it’s not exactly expected of tattooers to play such a key role with a charitable organization, especially one involving kids. It’s not just Sarratt, either. At this year’s Hell City Tattoo Festival, Ringo was given celebrity treatment, being brought up on stage and having several tattooers donate to his cause.

“Most people don’t think of tattooers as giving people,” Sarratt says. “I think this shows people that we’re not all criminals and drug addicts.”

Of course, the focus of CPForce isn’t out to make tattoo artists look better. The goal is to help children. So far, Ringo’s parents say they’ve seen positive changes in the 11-year-old’s schoolwork, motivation, confidence, overall demeanor, and much more. Which is only part of the reason they’re looking to spread the foundation’s message as far as they possibly can. “When I pick up a pencil, it doesn’t even matter where I am,” Ringo says. “I’m in the zone. I’m coloring.”

“The sky is the limit on this,” Tessa says. “We want to bring awareness about cerebral palsy and help as many kids as we can. No matter what you can donate, it helps. It doesn’t matter even if it’s just colored pencils or paper, it doesn’t have to be $500.”

As for the man of the hour, Aidan certainly wants to help others, but he’s also adamant about the artistic side of what he does.

Editor’s Note: In addition to helping other kids through his foundation, Aidan enjoys participating in sports and fitness programs at Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center. Aidan and his family were introduced to the Center in the summer of 2013, where they attend Family Game Nights and Aidan particularly enjoys Youth Adaptive Sports Clinics, summer Kids Camp, Children’s Aquatic Therapy (C.A.T.) and evening Youth Programs.