A Texas tattoo artist has come up with a unique and very permanent way to rally support for a bullied 11-year-old in North Carolina who recently attempted suicide.
Tony Wayne of Imperial Tattoo in Sugarland, Texas, is showing his support for Michael Morones by offering $20 "My Little Pony" tattoos. In an interview with HLN, Wayne said profits from the tattoos will go to Morones' family and the anti-bullying organization StopBullying.org.
The choice of "My Little Pony" is not a random selection. Morones is a huge fan of the cartoon.
His parents told HLN affiliate WTVD that Michael's affinity for the show contributed to his suicide attempt. They say the Raleigh, North Carolina, boy endured constant torment at the hands of his classmates, who bullied him for his love of the pony cartoon.
"I saw his story, and I knew I wanted to help somehow," Wayne told HLN. "And this was pretty much the only way I know how."
Morones' story appears to have struck a chord with many people.
Wayne told HLN he never could have anticipated the outpouring of support. He's said he's done about 40 "My Little Pony" tattoos -- some of which were for customers who were previously tattoo-free.
"I got a lobby full of people right now," Wayne said. "They all want to get it. We've been getting e-mails from people driving from five hours away to get them this weekend."
One Texas man who decided to get a pony tattoo in Morones' honor said he did it because he can relate to the challenges the boy has faced.
"I think a lot of people in the tattoo community, we know what it's like to be ridiculed and judged," Jonathan Myers told HLN affiliate KHOU. "So yeah, it definitely touched me in that way."
Wayne has also put the tattoos on customers who are part of a rising subculture of "My Little Pony" fans called "Bronies."
"Bronies" are adult males who can't get enough of the cartoon, so much so that there's even a recent documentary dedicated to the super-fans.
Wayne said he doesn't recall ever doing a "My Little Pony" tattoo before launching the fundraiser for Morones last week.
He also said Morones' stepdad reached out to him, thanking Wayne for his efforts in support of his son.
"I told him, everyone here in my studio wanted to help any way we knew how," Wayne said. "We figured this would be a little bit better than just donating money."
Morones was rushed to the hospital after he attempted to hang himself off the side of his bunk bed in late January, and his condition is still uncertain.
Doctors fear he may have permanent brain damage.
"We won't know for months how much is going to heal," Michael's mother, Tiffany Morones-Suttle, told WTVD last week. "It could even be years before we find out what potential for healing he has."
Attempts by HLN to reach Morones' family were unsuccessful, but they told WTVD they've received support from as far away as Ireland, and they're keeping fond memories of their son close.
"He's the kid that never walks. He dances everywhere," Morones-Suttle told WTVD. "He's so full of energy. He's always on the move."