It could be said that “Lucky” is more than just a moniker that Damon Blust went by in his professional life for six years.
By his own accounts, Blust should not have made it his 36 years, having lived through eight incidents in life that could have left him dead. It seems, like a cat, Blust has nine lives, and on his ninth, he's finally living the life he wants.
Blust says these days luck and good fortune have been on his side in allowing him to become one of Merrimack's newest business owners. He and his girlfriend Kaisy Korcoulis recently opened dlb's Flip City Inc., an arm of Blust's Touch of Luck Foundation, in the Riverside Business Park off Depot Street.
Flip City is a tumbling gym where Blust coaches young athletes – think cheerleaders and gymnasts – to improve their tumbling skills and their self-confidence.
And if you think he looks familiar, or if you recognize his name, it's because from 2003-09, Blust lived the life of Lucky the Leprechaun, the acrobatic mascot performing half-time shows for the Boston Celtics. He performed more than 300 shows with the team in his six years.
It was a job Blust loved, one that was his heart and soul for the time he spent with the Celtics organization, and one that has helped him down the path he's now following.
Rumors swirled about when he abruptly left the organization in 2009, but as he explains, it was the decision that was right for him. There were things he decided he wanted to accomplish in his life that he couldn't do as Lucky because of corporate strings and other things, so he hung up his uniform leaving his past where it was but taking pieces of it into the future.
“As a 5'8” white guy, you never expect to have a world championship ring with the Boston Celtics. I found my niche with a shamrock vest and a bow tie. It's crazy where life takes you, but it's kind of cool.”
A Touch of Luck
After leaving the Celtics, Blust moved up to Manchester, to pursue a dream that started in his role as Lucky. A believer in wellness of the mind, body and spirit, Blust formed the Touch of Luck Foundation, which, according to his website is “a non-profit organization that focuses on a health- and fitness-based initiative. Our intent is to be proactive in the fight against preventable disease through fitness and diet."
Specifically, Blust is focused on curbing what had become an epidemic of juvenile obesity, which can lead to Type 2 diabetes in children.
As Lucky, Blust formed a school show called “Be Stronger & Live Longer,” which teaches children in grades three through eight the importance of staying fit and healthy.
With the Touch of Luck Foundation, Blust continues the program. He uses acrobatics to energize the kids and speaks to them about staying active and eating right, focusing on portion control. He has added a second program called “Rise Above” that focuses on anti-bullying.
Touch of Luck Foundation is a registered nonprofit in New Hampshire and is the process of earning its federal 501(c)3 status as well.
Blust said 50 percent of the proceeds from coaching/training fees he collects at Flip City will be fed back into the Touch of Luck Foundation. According to his website, money raised through the foundation is used to provide school programs to schools that don't have the necessary funds allocated and for scholarships for students who want to take classes at Flip City but wouldn't be able to afford them otherwise.
He has a goal of making that contribution higher as success builds, and a dream of someday being able to offer a student of his a scholarship to attend college.
“I want to give back,” Blust said. “It's not about personal wealth and prosperity and all that.”
When he left the Celtics, he'd just performed on Conan O'Brien and realized after that show that while he love what he was doing in life, he wanted more. He wanted to realize a vision that had been kicking around in his head, so he left Boston.
He moved to New Hampshire where he met and fell in love with Korcoulis, and since 2009, he's been building the dream with Korcoulis by his side.
“Here we are together doing things we always dreamed of,” Blust said.
He's got them flippin', tumblin'...
Blust started gymnastics at his local Pennsylvania YMCA when he was just 3 years old and stuck with it through his childhood and teen years. As an adult, he found his way into stunt acrobatics for other organizations like the Philadelphia Phantoms and the Budlight Dare Devils before winning his job as Lucky in a three finalist dunk-off. Post mascot days, Blust found himself teaching tumbling at gyms like the YMCA in Londonderry and Gym-Ken Gymnastics in Windham before branching off on his own.
Flip City opened its doors in Merrimack on May 4 and his first month was 100 percent booked with students he'd been training already. He gives 180 to 200 personal training sessions a month and works with cheer squads of all ages from Nashua, Bedford, Windham, Salem, Manchester and more. He also offers off-site training, which he has done and hopes to continue to do at Merrimack High School.
The large garage-style space below his office is being transformed into a tumbling space that gives his students plenty of room to move. Concrete floors have been covered with padded, springy cheer floors. Tumble tracks are awaiting rollout. Gymnastics mats, and a small trampoline adorn the sparse room that will eventually be covered wall to wall in cheer floor and safety mats on the walls that allow him to make full use of the space. There will be a trampoline with spotting ropes, and eventually a state of the art camera system that will allow him to feed video onto a 65-inch TV in the back of the gym for video training.
“I'm very excited about that,” Blust said. “I've always wanted state of the art video training.”
This system will allow students to see moves they performed just minutes before and learn from their form, what they did right and what needs improving.
When students come to his gym, they are coming for results, Blust said, so he gives them that. He's also working with them to instill confidence and to challenge them to face their fears, because tumbling can be a scary sport. If done right, it's fun and challenging and rewarding, Blust said, and that's what he hopes he's passing to his students.
The upstairs of Flip City has a viewing area for parents that will be doubled in size by the end of the summer. There is also a space where Korcoulis plans to open an art studio for students who are interested in taking classes. Korcoulis' art adorns the walls of the studio right now, and it's her passion she hopes to pass along to kids while Blust shares his passion for gymnastics.
Blust said the gym is currently operating near-capacity, but he has another coach to bring on board soon, and he is still taking new students but there is a waiting list.
While he'd like to expand quickly, to meet demand, Blust said he's trying to keep the gym at numbers and a size that won't overwhelm him, Korcoulis and anyone else he brings on board.
“This isn't about us. It's about every child who walks through that door and engaging them in where their interests lie. It's about turning their hopes into beliefs and their beliefs into something bigger."
The road to here
Blust says he feels lucky to be on the path he is today, and says none of it could have been done without help and assistance from people all around him: his family, Korcoulis, past colleagues, coaches, parents and students who have given him the encouragement he needed to get on this trajectory.
Blust says growing up, he has gone through some tough stuff that has helped him grow and find his faith and inspiration.
As a toddler, Blust managed to unlock a door and wander out of his home while his grandmother's back was turned and wander into their backyard where he was later found facedown in the family pool. He once impaled himself climbing around in a construction site he shouldn't have been in, and missed vital organs by inches, he said.
During his sometimes misguided youth, Blust found himself in a juvenile detention center on three occasions. It's not a period of his life he's proud of, but it has all stood as learning experiences.
“One thing I look forward to is being able to tell people 'I made it.'” Blust said. “Thank God for consequences for my actions that I was forced to face. I learned a lot from them.”
Blust found his faith after a motorcycle accident in 2001, his eighth near-death experience in his then 25 years.
Coming away from that, he knew he needed a life change.
“There were a lot of not so good things in my life that made me who I am,” Blust said.
That's why when you walk into his office, who he is is right there on the walls. From framed art by Koroulis, to mounted articles about him as Lucky to the definitions of happiness and freedom, Blust's life, past and present is right there.
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give,” Blust said reading a sign on the front wall. “Those are words that I live by.”
For more information about dlb's Flip City and the Touch of Luck Foundation, visit theflipcity.org.