When rising Franklin D. Roosevelt eighth-grader Damien Marion learned that his neighbor – the son of a struggling single mother – needed a bicycle, he didn’t hesitate to help out.
In fact, Damien asked his grandmother, Theresa Knapp, if he could give the boy his own bike, which Knapp had just bought him for Christmas six months prior. Damien was perfectly content using a discarded bike that he refurbished to look and ride almost like new.
“That’s just my grandson,” said Knapp. “That’s the kind of kid he is.”
Damien’s Levittown neighbor was among countless area kids and teens to benefit from his generosity.
For two summers, Damien located abandoned bikes in town, brought them home and used his own Christmas and Easter money to fix them up. Each was given to a young person in need. Additionally, he bought spare parts like tire tubes. Whenever a child in the community got a flat, they would come knock for Damien, who repaired every bike free of charge.
“They would pull up four kids at a time. Damien did it because he wanted to help,” Knapp said. “Sometimes we’d buy 12 tubes at a time, some with the special gel that wouldn’t go flat. When he didn’t have any more tubes and someone came and needed their bike fixed, he would literally take the tube out of his bicycle.”
In Damien’s mind, he’d rather go a day without his own bike than refuse to lend someone a hand.
The efforts of Damien, who Knapp said is on the spectrum but high-functioning, attracted the attention of Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, who stopped by FDR recently to meet him.
“I had to meet this impressive young man in person to commend him for a job well done,” said Fitzpatrick. “It was an honor to meet Damien and thank him for his selflessness, compassion and for inspiring so many people in our community. People like Damien make our world a brighter place. I’m excited to see all that he will accomplish in life.”
Fitzpatrick announced that Damien was added to the Congressional Record, and invited him and Knapp to visit the Capitol for a personal tour.
“I’m so ecstatic. It just warms my heart,” Knapp said of the praise Damien received. “I have so much pride for this young man to begin with. He always makes me proud no matter what, but this is something that I can’t even imagine.”
Damien’s classmates were stunned over their special guest, especially since they had no idea what their peer was up to during his months off from school. According to Knapp, Damien is the most humble person she knows and never does any good deed to receive glorification. For the usually shy Damien, being in the spotlight – and on Fox 29 news – was everything he didn’t want, but he broke out of his shell and informed Fitzpatrick about his selfless bike endeavors.
“I always taught him, if you help someone with their groceries, give money to the homeless, you don’t need to tell anybody you do this,” said Knapp. “You just do it and that builds character. I guess he’s learning something because he doesn’t tell anybody. To him, he just doesn’t feel like he did anything that great.”
Another example of Damien’s humbleness came after a neighbor’s tree was hit by high winds during a storm.
“He heard about it. He went up to check it out, came home and got all our garden tools to cut branches and stuff with,” said Knapp.
When the homeowner offered Damien money, he refused it. Several weeks later, the neighbor caught up with Damien and insisted he take $20, which he used to treat himself to ice cream.
After Damien’s efforts became known across the Lower Bucks County area, he was contacted by bike shops, some as far as Newtown, asking if he’d like to work for them. Knapp had to inform the owners that Damien is only 13.
Currently, Knapp said there are fewer kids riding their bikes outside. She attributes this to an increase in video game playing during COVID-19. Therefore, there’s less of a need for bike repairs, but that’s OK with Damien.
“He’s moving onto something else. He’s starting to get into photography now and collector cars,” said Knapp. “And he doesn’t want to feel obligated to do it.”
For two consecutive summers, Damien was fixing bikes almost on a daily basis. Knapp lost track of how many he worked on. However, she believes that if a child in need came knocking, Damien wouldn’t hesitate to help. There’s still six used bikes in the backyard just in case.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com