The Story Behind the Ink: Doane’s Bernhardt Uses Tattoos to Honor Family, Memories

The Story Behind the Ink: Doane’s Bernhardt Uses Tattoos to Honor Family, Memories
Courtesy of Doane Athletics.

CRETE – The dark, gloomy skies and rain may not have proven to be good conditions for Doane Tiger softball on Wednesday, but come Friday, the field will be packed with fans and parents for Senior Day. One of those seniors has a very special story to tell.

Tiger catcher and outfielder Kelsey Bernhardt is a long way away from her hometown, Thornton, Colorado. She carries around memories and thoughts everyday, however, on her tattoos.

The senior has six tattoos, each with some meaning related to her life. The first was inspired by her mother, Janet, who was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer when Bernhardt was in kindergarten.

“I knew she was in a difficult situation. There’s two vivid memories that I actually remember from the first time of her being diagnosed. One is when she lost her hair because she had to take chemotherapy. Two was when I showed up to the hospital and asked if she could come home and she said no,” said Bernhardt.

When it happened again, she was much older and understood what she was going through.

“I was a junior in high school and so then it really it me because I knew exactly what was going on. It took me back then and how hard it was on her. Luckily, this time it wasn’t as hard on her because she caught it very early and she was able to fight it off very quickly. She didn’t have to take chemo, only radiation,” stated Bernhardt.

Her tattoo of ribbon and flowers represents the bright times they have spent together. Bernhardt’s mom will be at Senior Day against Morningside.

“I love having her come to my games and just being there to talk to. It’s very easy and seeing her in the stands is the best thing. I’m playing for you mom, not just myself, but for you as well,” declared Bernhardt.

The second tattoo represents her softball playing career. It’s a dreamcatcher with her number in it, along with a softball and glove as charms.

“I’ve always been told that maybe I’m not the best player or maybe I’m not as good as other people, and because I’m so small as a catcher, that I won’t make it to the college level. I caught my dream of actually getting there and playing college softball,” exclaimed Bernhardt.

The third one was dedicated to her niece, Rylee.

“She’s diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and so she’s in a wheelchair and cannot walk. That’s very hard, just to not be able to play softball with her, but know that she is always there for me and I’m always there for her. I have a flower and a clock for her. The clock is set on the time that she was born and that kind of brings out the good times in life for her. She’s always smiling, so I always want to carry her with me. She’s one of my biggest role models in life,” said Bernhardt.

She dedicated the fourth tattoo to her other niece, Teagan, who Bernhardt represented with a feather on her shoulder.

“I don’t know if you’ve seen a feather around, like on the street, but when the wind comes up, it blows with you. You’re always seeing it there. She’s always with me no matter what,” stated Bernhardt.

Her nephew Cael, the only boy in the family, is represented by an anchor because he’s in charge of looking over his two sisters, an important role to play.

The final tattoo features the state flag of Colorado. She wants to always be reminded of where home is.

Despite what many tattoo critics say, Bernhardt wanted to let people know that they’re not a bad thing, and that they’re just another piece of art. She believes there are a lot of stories behind the ink.

“I wanted to show people that there can be good coming from it. Just having a memory written on paper or even in your head, it wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted to, one, show those people that they were very important to me and having them with me is important. Also, just being able to look at it and be reminded everyday that I can wake up and everything is going to be okay,” declared Bernhardt.

The 2016 First Team All-GPAC selection is set to graduate with a degree in exercise science.


We strive for accuracy. Report a typo, inaccuracy, or mistake here.