“One day I stayed outside and hopped on this bus and it took me to The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club. And I remember immediately when I got there I felt safe. That was something I haven’t felt in while. I had just recently lost an older brother to the streets,” said Damien.
Damien was one of 12 children in his family. His mother couldn’t read or write but worked long hours in order to provide for her family.
Unable to afford after school activities, Damien jumped at the opportunities The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club had to offer.
“As I recall, I made a wager with you guys. I said, ‘if you all win I’ll buy drinks if I win you got to come to church on Sunday,’” said Major Costas, The Salvation Army corps officer in charge of the Boys & Girls Club at that time.
To Damien’s surprise, Major Costas would teach him a lesson that would ultimately change his life.
“My first immediate thought was, ‘this white guy doesn’t know anything about basketball’,” said Damien.
“I am short, fat, and bald,” Major Costas chimed in.
“What is he going to show us about basketball? It was a pity, so we said 'Okay, we’ll show him the ropes'. But he literally got out there and spanked us all. I remember shot after shot it [the basketball] was going in [to the net]. I was just thinking, ‘Who is this guy?’ and then my pride kicked in. We can beat him in foosball,” said Damien.
Losing the bet, Damien began regularly coming to The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club and attending the church. It was there he found his love for music and began honing his musical abilities.
As time when on and with the support of Major Costas and the club, Damien was the first in his family to graduate from high school. Determined to make his mark in the music industry, he headed to Los Angeles after graduation.
“I took this two-and-a-half-day bus ride to Hollywood, and I remember the feeling of getting there and stepping off the bus and feeling like I am ready to take over the world and everything is going to fall into my lap. I found out real quick that you need a lot more than 400 dollars to make it in LA. That was gone within the week. I found myself clear across the country, in a place I’ve never been before, and I didn’t know anybody there,” said Damien.
Despite struggling with homelessness and the challenges of pursuing a career in music, Damien knew that God had a bigger purpose for him.
“Being young and immature, and not so much connected, I would think ‘Oh my purpose in life is to play music, or to be famous, or to make money.’ But God broke all those things down and showed me what my real purpose was. It was always about others. Everything that he has given me is to give back to others. To glorify him and to give to others.”
Today, Damien says he lives by the mantra rise and shine. “I’ve lived life through all these peaks and valleys, but God has been there in the midst to help me rise to the occasion. Then shining is living out that purpose.”
Damien was signed to a record label and has found success in the entertainment industry. He continues to be a strong supporter and advocate for the place where it all began.
“Anytime I talk about The Salvation Army and the Boys & Girls Club I accredit it to truly saving my life. I’m not saying, 'Oh it saved my life,' no, I mean it truly saved my life.”
“It’s [The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club] a holistic ministry,” said Major Costas. “It’s spiritual, but with the Boys & Girls Club, we provide tutoring, and homework help, and those disciplines that are safe for the kids. It is also helpful for them in their maturing and becoming the adults that God wants them to be. It was good to see that in Damien’s life.”
Damien represents so many of the lives that are changed when they experience hope and faith through programs like The Boys & Girls Clubs at The Salvation Army. Your support makes all the difference!
Hear more music from Damien, visit here.
To learn more about affordable after school care, visit here.