The Problem

Darius Weems was born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Seven years ago, he lost his beloved older brother, Mario, to the same disease. Many people don't know about DMD, yet it is the number one genetic killer of children in the world! Kids with DMD are born with full mobility. But this disease weakens muscles over time, and most lose the ability to walk by age 10 or so and must use a wheelchair. DMD is 100% fatal, with the majority of children affected dying in their late teens or early twenties when the heart muscle deteriorates. The good news is, DMD research is burgeoning. Scientists have discovered the cause of this disease, and for the first time in history, several human clinical trials are underway and showing great promise. Darius's mission is not only to raise awareness of his disease, but to help fund a cure. He knows that it probably won't happen in time to save his life, but he's determined to do all he can to save the lives of the thousands of younger children with this terrible disease.

Plan of Action

Darius's trip was filmed from start to finish and edited into a 90-minute documentary called "Darius Goes West: The Roll of His Life" In 2007, while Darius was completing his senior year of high school, his documentary won an unprecedented 28 film festival awards worldwide. At nearly every screening, educators would come up to Darius and his crew and ask how they could share this film with their students. So, in January of 2008, with the help of a few teachers, the Darius Goes West "Know About It" (a tagline Darius uses in the film at the end of each rap he performs) educational program was launched. The DGW "Know About It" program provides lesson plans in many subjects (Science, English, Social Studies, Health, Math, etc.) that go with the film and are geared to 6th through 12th grade. Also in 2008, Darius Goes West was released on DVD. Although there were offers from film companies to distribute DGW commercially, Darius and his crew decided to remain independent and sell DVDs online at their website. That way, $7 of every $10 DVD could go directly to DMD research. Darius appeared on "Nightline," "The Today Show," and "Ellen DeGeneres," which boosted DVD sales. Also, middle and high school students who watched DGW began rallying around his cause by organizing fundraisers. Collectively, these schools raised nearly $100,000 in 2008 alone! On September 27, 2008, Darius turned 19, the same age his brother Mario was when he lost his battle with DMD. Instead of dwelling on this, Darius opted to celebrate his 19th year by doing something positive. He and his crew launched an ambitious campaign called "One Million DVDs...One Year," and hit the road...again.

Project Updates

Darius and his crew aren't traveling much anymore, but Darius has been using Skype to virtually "meet" thousands of students this year. If your class or group would like to schedule a video chat with Darius, shoot us an e-mail at dariusgoeswest@gmail.com

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