Sunday, December 22, 2013

Darius Goes West

I went to a screening of a documentary film titled "Darius Goes West." Darius Weems has Duchenne muscular dystrophy which restricts him to a wheelchair. Darius's brother Mario Weems died from the same disease at age 19.  Logan Smalley was a counselor at a 'Project REACH' camp, a facility set up to give the experiences of being at 'camp' to children with disabilities, there he met Darius. After reading a copy of a letter Darius had penned to MTV's show Pimp My Ride in which Darius had asked them to consider refurbishing his wheelchair, Smalley organized a cross-country trip for Darius to Los Angeles, which to the group became known as the 'Darius Goes West Project'.  Though the initial letter had been ignored, they decided to get Darius out west so he could meet the producers face to face. The film documents the trip west with Darius and 11 of his friends.

Darius had never left his hometown of Athens Georgia so this road trip was the adventure of a lifetime. The term "goslabi" on the filmmakers T shirts referred to a scene in the movie where Darius was offered goslabi in a Chinese restaurant. Goslabi is a hot past often offered with sushi. Darius took a whole teaspoon and the scene showed his shocked reaction. The friendship and bonds between the characters became clear over the course of the film. This prank, rather than cruel, showed that Darius wasn't seen in any way as a cripple but rather as an equal.

Documenting the trip in the mobile home showed how often simple amenities like a bathroom or store are often not wheelchair accessible. The young college students help Darius overcome every obstacle. In the end, Darius gets to the west coast and meets the cast of "Pimp My Ride." The actual cast loved the idea, but the producers held fast and refused to upgrade Darius's wheelchair. The boys had to return defeated. 7,000 mile road trip across the United States to promote awareness of the fatal disease Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and to raise money for research into a cure.

Back in their hometown, people had raised money and hired a local mechanic and craftsman to add custom features to a wheelchair. Flames were painted on its side, a state of the art audio system was worked into the chair. The alterations to the chair however weren't as important as the alterations to the participants. When they started, the boys knew nothing about film making or fundraising. The film has won an incredible number of awards and the goal to raise awareness has become an unstoppable movement. The film celebrates life that should be embraced with open arms. No setback or disability can stop someone who truly wants to live.

All proceeds from the film go to 'Charley's Fund', named for DMD sufferer Charley Seckler, and set up as a non-profit foundation investing in scientific research to help cure DMD. The filmmakers had originally hoped the film might raise $70,000 for DMD research, but by March 2009 they had raised $1.5 million, and by June 2009 they had raised $2 million.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this awesome summary! Happy holidays from Darius and the crew.

Anonymous said...

It is called wasabi. Darius said it incorrectly and it became a long running joke. Outside of DGW, there is no such thing as goslabi.