Darius Weems is a 19-year-old man from Athens, Georgia.
Aidan Leffler is a 5-year-old boy from Bellevue, Washington.
They have much in common – friends, support, community, a joyful laugh, parents who love them.
And Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the number one genetic killer of children.
When Darius was 15, he and a crew of 11 drove across country in a rented motorhome to the MTV studios in L.A. Their goal was simple: Darius wanted MTV’s Pimp My Ride to trick out his wheelchair.
Darius hoped to reach a younger audience and raise awareness of DMD. He (correctly) figured that his generation didn’t know much about Jerry Lewis and his long-running MD telethon. Pimp My Ride would have given Darius a way to reach millions of young people with his message.
MTV turned him down flat.
While on the road, Darius and the crew filmed a documentary of their trip – including the laughs and breakdowns, the disappointments and celebrations, and visits to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The feature-length documentary, Darius Goes West, debuted at the 2007 film festivals, winning 28 awards.
The movie trailer:
Last night and yesterday afternoon, hundreds of people attended screenings of the movie at Sammamish High School in Bellevue. Darius and his crew also were there, telling stories and answering questions afterward. Sammamish is the only school they have visited twice since hitting the road.
There is a reason for this.
Aidan’s father is a teacher at Sammamish High School. When Aidan was diagnosed with DMD, 2 years ago, the students at SHS determined to do something to help. They created the Walk for Aidan. Their goal the first year was to raise $5,000. They brought in $16,000.
Last year, $45,000.
This year, they hope to raise even more in an event the student community has created, led, and embraced with full hearts.
Darius is running out of time. His brother died of DMD at 19. Darius is not running out of spirit or hope. He wants to raise the money needed to fund research for a cure. For the generation after him. For boys like Aidan Leffler.
You can help.
Purchase the Darius Goes West DVD. Of the $20 price, $17 goes to DMD research. Watch the video. Share it with your friends and family. Pass it on. The message is one of friendship and hope.
Darius Goes West has been mailed to every high school and middle school in the country. Ask the guidance counsellor at your school to share the movie with the school community.
If you are in the Puget Sound area, attend and support the Walk for Aidan on May 16th, 2009.
I have a new hero. His name is Darius Weems.
listening to: The Beach Boys, Kokomo