Darius Goes West
Exploring America and Friendship
When you meet Darius Weems, who is living with Duchenne Muscular
Dystrophy (DMD), you quickly learn that the most important thing to remember
about Darius is not his DMD, but how he is living.
Darius is a 15-year-old boy with all the interests of a typical teenager:
video games, sports and girls. Two years ago, he had never traveled far from his
home of Athens, GA. In fact, Darius had never been outside the borders of
Georgia until he and a group of friends decided the time had come to see America
and have the experience of a lifetime. So, with a wheelchair accessible
recreational vehicle, 11 friends, and a modest supply of film and audio
equipment, Darius embarked on a 7,000-mile journey across the country. The
result was the documentary film "Darius Goes West." It was also much more.
The dozen friends hit the road in the summer of 2005, with an ultimate goal
in mind of meeting the producers of MTV's program "Pimp my Ride" in Los Angeles.
But between Athens and LA was an entire country to explore and they were
determined to have as many adventures and experience as much of America as they
possibly could along the way. It is the success of that venture, meeting
different people, in different places, and trying different things, that is
portrayed in "Darius Goes West." The film shows how the group formed a strong
bond as they shared diverse experiences as they made their way around the United
"It was something I'll never forget. We saw so many incredible things and met
so many great people," said Darius. While the cross-country trip was filled with
memorable moments, Darius was able to pinpoint a couple personal highlights.
"Las Vegas was really something. I'd never seen anything like that before. Plus
I won $60," he said. "And then there was the Grand Canyon. You see that on TV
sometimes, but when you're there in person and you can see how deep it is, and
how far it goes, that's a whole different thing."
Darius recalled planning the adventure, admitting he was skeptical of the
idea at first, but his friend Logan Smalley, who also arranged the trip and
filmed "Darius Goes West," convinced him that it was an opportunity not to be
missed. Darius and Logan met nearly 10 years ago, when Logan was a teen
volunteer at a summer camp for children with special needs. The two have been
friends ever since and that friendship has developed in recent years. "As I've
gotten a little older, Logan and I have become closer and better friends," said
Darius. "He's been an important person in my life. He believes anything is
possible and is always encouraging me at everything." It was that positive
attitude that persuaded Darius to set out with 11 other guys and see the
Their shared adventure is being shown at film festivals across the country
this year, and is garnering plenty of attention and its share of accolades along
the way. "Darius Goes West" received the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature
at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in Santa Barbara, CA; the Oxford Film
Festival in Oxford, MS; Omaha Film Festival in Omaha, NE; and the Cleveland
International Film Festival in Cleveland, OH, where it was also named Best
Documentary. For more information about the film, visit
Click on "Showings" for information about upcoming film festivals.
While the stated goal from the outset of appearing on "Pimp My Ride" with his
Jazzy 1170 didn't go exactly as planned, Darius said by then it had become far
more about the journey than about the destination. "The time we spent together,
the things we did, the way we all got to be so close, that was the big thing,"
said Darius. As for his Jazzy, Darius said it serves him well, allowing him to
pursue life to its fullest, without hesitation. "The Jazzy has been good for
me," he said. "It's been a lot of places with me and I've always been able to
count on it."
All profits from "Darius Goes West" are being donated to a non-profit
organization called "Charley's Fund," which directs money to scientists trying
to find a cure for DMD. This is unique because most DMD organizations raise
funds simply to help with the enormous costs of living with the disease.
According to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, researchers are pursuing
several directions in search of a way to halt or reverse the muscle destruction
of DMD. For more information, visit
and www.mda.org. Right now,
100-percent of DMD patients lose mobility by their early teens and the disease
is always fatal, usually before age 20.
It is that goal that Darius keeps firmly in the front of his mind. "I'm not
trying to help myself," he said, acknowledging what DMD means to him, with no
hint of self pity. "I'm trying to help the next generation of kids, so they can
live longer and more comfortably and hopefully find a cure someday."