Everybody has a cause, they say, and Damion Alexander is setting out to discover them.
He is a collector of causes, in a sense, a pack rat of passions.
A familiar face on the bike paths and running trails of Tucson, Alexander will ride in this year’s El Tour de Tucson not for one charity or two but for a dozen — and with more on his mind. Next year, his goal is to ride for every charity that supports El Tour.
There is a story, he believes, behind Tu Nidito, Children’s Clinics, ALS Arizona Chapter and Alzheimer’s Association, among others.
Years ago, Alexander participated in a 24-hour race in Tucson. While fundraising, he’d hear the darndest things.
“I started asking for money for Tu Nidito, and I would ask everybody, and some answers would be, ‘Well, I really don’t care about kids,’” Alexander said. “It was amazing that people were that candid with me. It threw me back and then I was like … what do you care about?”
He’d hear their stories.
“One said, ‘My brother is dying of AIDS, and the only charity I’m interested in, the only place I’m giving is AIDS research,’” he said. “The Humane Society; nothing for people, but the second you say animals, they’d open their checkbooks right up. I started to learn about all the good things people are doing.”
Soon, in addition to being a collector, he became a connector.
His Rolodex grew.
A real estate agent for more than two decades, UA-educated and gregarious, Alexander learned more and more about the people of this community.
He’d learn that one charity needed a piece of equipment and couldn’t afford it. He’d find out another charity had that piece of equipment and only needed it a few times a year. Boom, connection. One of his clients collected old electronics items and metalwork, and another just happened to be throwing out a boxful of them. Boom, connection. Alexander is an avid photographer who takes shots of the Tucson outdoor sports community nearly every weekend. He taught a photography class at a local high school and gathered enough unwanted and discarded equipment to furnish the whole program. Boom, connection.
“When I was younger, I made a lot of money. And I’d write a check all the time, but I never got down on the ground,” said Alexander, who hosts his photos on and writes a blog called BikePilgrim.com. “It’s about finding the best in our community. As a real estate agent, I like to say I don’t sell homes, I sell lifestyles, and that’s all about learning what makes someone tick, what they care about.”
Alexander found himself increasingly devoted to discovering all that Tucson had to offer. He’d inquire about a charity and then go take a tour of the facility. He’d take to the streets and see the city on two wheels, sporting a Viking bicycle helmet with two horns, flashing his smile to everyone he saw. Those who weren’t texting-and-driving, at least, because he is a former board member for the Look! Save A Life organization.
He can’t even guess how many people he’s spoken to who have energy and don’t know where to direct it.
“If people have passions, that’s my passion,” he said. “Seeing how people get involved. You get to know people, and they have something they care about, and I consider that an amazing fuel for me.”
He’ll need that fuel on Saturday in the Tucson Medical Center El Tour de Tucson presented by Casino del Sol.
Raised in Telluride, Colorado, Alexander got his first bike when he was 3. “We built jumps in the river, rode to the top of Imogene Pass, riding downhill before there were downhill bikes. The bike was freedom, it was friends, it was wind in your face, all those great feelings.”
Now he coaches a youth cycling club called El Grupo and puts out a weekly ride list for Arizona cyclists.
He rides to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, and he rides to see the beauty that the world has to offer. Last year he suffered a herniated disc and was sidelined for six months. It was agony.
“It’s an ugly world out there. There are a lot of things that hurt me when I look at the world,” he said. “I think we can do a lot better. We live in a world where hate is doing pretty darn good. We’re not being nice, were not listening to each other. Motivating other people to do things, seeing people take that action, that drives me quite a bit. If I sit on the couch and am not active, and were to start thinking about all the problems we have, I’d need a lot of medication. I’m definitely ADD and my Ritalin is the bike.”
He will ride El Tour with his son and daughter, who, like Damion, are raising money for Arts Express. The nonprofit provides performing-arts education for children.
Alexander is also riding for Velo\Vets, a local nonprofit that helps disabled veterans ride year-round with adaptive cycles.
“Tucson a great community in general, and it is very supportive of these activities,” Velo\Vets’ Giuliana Donnelly said. “Damion is such a champion. I was out mountain-biking with a friend a couple months ago, and he popped up from behind a cactus. He’s everywhere. He’s just a huge supporter.”
Alexander doesn’t have a grand total of what he’s raised this year, but, he adds, “I haven’t raised enough, and there’s still time for everyone to give.”
“We get by giving, and I wish that was the moniker for El Tour one year,” he said. “You’ll find if you become a part of an organization, that no matter how many hours you put in, it’s so much better for you than the work you put in. As a society, we’re missing it. It’s not just about raising funds, it’s trying to build a community, trying to get people engaged, to show them opportunities do exist.”