Darius Weems, 21, is a young man is on a mission: to affect a cure for his disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and to make America more wheelchair accessible. Eleven years ago, Weems watched DMD take his beloved older brother Mario’s life at age 19. And while research is burgeoning, Weems is well aware that a cure won’t be found in time to save his life. To help raise awareness of DMD, Darius agreed to star in a documentary, “Darius Goes West: The Roll of His Life.” This film tells the
story of Weems leaving home for the first time at age 15 with 11 of his best
(high school/college age) friends. Their goal: to reach Los Angeles and convince
MTV’s popular show “Pimp My Ride” to customize Weems’ wheelchair.
In 2007, “Darius Goes West” won an unprecedented 28 film festival awards, an
even mix of both Audience Choice and Juried awards. And at the prestigious
Tribeca Film Festival, it was hand‐picked by festival co‐founder Robert
DeNiro as the sole flick to screen at his children’s school.
“Darius Goes West” has fans of all ages, but with its powerful themes of
friendship and living life to its fullest, the film has particularly struck
a chord among teenagers. For this reason, Weems and his crew’s recent
travels have mostly focused on visits to middle and high schools across the
country. In these settings, Weems, with his megawatt smile, is consistently
treated like a rock star. “This is better than the Jonas Brothers!” remarked
one sixth grader upon meeting Weems and his “band of brothers.”
Teachers also give the film high marks, because it comes with lesson plans
in Social Studies, Science, English, and Math for grades 6 through 12—and
because it inspires young people to dream big and pursue their passions.
According to Dr. Mark Wilson, National Principal of the Year, “It also pulls
adolescents ‘out of the mirror’ and motivates them to take action.”
Weems grew up in the projects and is being raised by a single mom who is
also disabled. Financially, they barely scrape by. His movie has been so
successful that Weems could easily be living the good life. Instead, he has
chosen to donate all of the film’s proceeds to DMD research. To date, he has
raised a whopping $2 million—and students who’ve watched the film have
contributed over $120,000 of that sum!
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