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'Army' of pals staying faithful


February 18. 2013 2:09PM


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KINGSTON TWP. – A legion of family, friends and caregivers has attached itself to Damon Szatkowski as he recovers from serious head trauma he suffered in a car crash in December 2011.
Rich Szatkowski said he always knew his son had a lot of friends, but he never knew just how many.
“There were times we would get to the hospital and there would be 40 or 50 kids there,” Rich said. “It means the world to Damon. These kids visited him in Philadelphia and Hershey. They are seniors in high school. They have a lot going on, but they have always had time for Damon.”
They are part of “Damon's Army.”
Karen Szatkowski said the supporters have T-shirts emblazoned on the front with “Damon's Army” and, to acknowledge their friend's love of country music, a cowboy boot. On the backs of the shirts, it reads, “No heart is as big as yours, no army is as strong as ours.”
Szatkowski's fellow students at Dallas High School organized a “Cowboy Day” for Damon. An area shoe store – Hoof N' Paw – nearly sold out of boots for the event.
“The kids designed (the T-shirts) and sold them at cost,” said Karen. “We gracefully refused all fundraisers. But even if there was no accident, you always need your friends.”
Damon's school friends include:
• Eric Gototowski, Damon's best friend among hundreds of other close friends. Damon calls him “the farmer” because Eric works at an area orchard each summer.
Gototowski said Damon always thanks his friends for the time they spend with him. “He's really funny,” Gototowski said of Damon. “He's always up to do something fun. He was always there for me when I needed him.”
• Chris Schmid said he and Damon have gotten closer since the accident. “This is the first major thing that's happened to someone I know,” he said. “I want to be here for him. I see him improving – I see him getting better and better.”
• Dante DeAngelo and Damon have a mutual passion for cars. DeAngelo said he decided to take Damon for a ride in his Mitsubishi Lancer.
“We drove around Harveys Lake,” DeAngelo said. “Damon had the biggest smile on his face that I've ever seen in the past year.”
DeAngelo said he felt the ride would help keep Damon motivated. “We always want him to keep moving forward,” he said.
• Abri Tolomello made a scrapbook for Damon. It has pictures of Damon and his friends before and after the accident. Damon loves to look through it. “We don't ever want Damon to feel like anything has changed,” she said. “We won't ever give up on him.”
• Courtney Phillips said she wants to be around him to help make his life normal. “We want to make him happy,” she said. “He's a good friend. We would rather be here for him than anywhere else.”
• Kendra Vanesko said Damon always has been a good friend to her. “He gave us rides,” she said.
“Kendra came over on Valentine's night by herself with a shamrock shake and chocolate,” Karen said. “On Friday, Damon asked her to the prom and she accepted. She is as beautiful inside as out.”



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