March 20th, 2009
11:11 AM ET

Darius goes West

By Caitlin Hagan
CNN Medical Associate Producer

Darius Weems wants you to know about Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). It's the number one genetic killer of children worldwide and it's a disease that, as of now, has no known cure. It's also a disease most people have never heard of, something that Darius, who has DMD, and his crew of best friends, are working to change.

According to the National Institutes of Health, roughly one of every 3,600 male infants is born with a defective gene for dystrophin, a protein normally found in the body's muscles. It's that lack of dystrophin that causes DMD, a progressive muscle disorder that eventually results in a loss of muscle function. Boys are primarily affected by the disease.

Four years ago, Darius and his crew set out on a cross-country journey to raise awareness of DMD. They filmed their trip and turned the footage into the award-winning independent film "Darius Goes West." Since the movie's release, the guys have traveled across the country on countless road trips, hosting screenings, and educating the public. Their mission is to find a cure for DMD. Remarkably, they have already raised more than $2 million for Duchenne research.

Recently I had the honor of watching "Darius Goes West" with Darius, who is now 19 years old, film director Logan Smalley, and producer Daniel Epting. Their passion is as tireless today as it was when they first started out four years ago. Not only do they educate their audiences about Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy but the crew also tackles the greater issue of equal rights for people who have physical disabilities. As Darius said to me while we were having lunch, he can do anything in his wheelchair that anyone else can do without one. DMD is not his obstacle: the only thing that ever stands in his way is a building or an area that is not accessible.

It is unlikely that Darius will see a cure for DMD in his lifetime. For him, the goal is to find a cure for DMD so someone else's life can be prolonged. That's why he travels, that's why he went West, and that's why he wants you to know about it.

Have you ever been inspired by someone? Had you ever heard of DMD before this?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. J Smalls

    This DVD is incredible. I saw it at my high school.

    March 20, 2009 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. G.S.Bapna

    my son is suffering from DMD, I am very thankful to Darius for thier work in the field of DMD.

    March 21, 2009 at 09:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Jackie Toops

    I've arranged a screening at the University of Central Florida's Rosen College of Hospitality Management next Thursday, April 9 at 6 p.m. We are delighted that Darius and his crew will be present at the screening and will also enjoy Universal Studios Tickets! For more: http://www.hospitality.ucf.edu

    April 3, 2009 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. cat698

    Darius Weems (the focus of the documentary DARIUS GOES WEST) was just announced as one of five winners of a Do Something Award: http://www.dosomething.org/programs/awards

    Five winners receive a minimum of $10,000 in community grants and scholarships.

    On June 4th, at a star-studded event at the Apollo Theater in NYC, one of the five winners will be selected as the grand prize Do Something Award winner.

    The grand prize Do Something Award winner receives a total of $100,000 in community grants.

    The Do Something Award community grant money is paid directly to the not-for-profit of the winner’s choice. All winners have the option of receiving $5,000 of the total money awarded in the form of an educational scholarship.

    Since 1996, Do Something has honored the nation’s best young world-changers. Do Something Award Winners represent the pivotal "do-ers" in their field, cause, or issue and are rewarded with a huge community grant, participation in a special award ceremony, media coverage, and continued support from Do Something.

    In 2007, The BR!CK Awards became the FIRST EVER televised award show about making the world better. Millions watched it on The CW and it was a critical success.

    In 2008, The BR!CK Awards were renamed the Do Something Awards and became the first non-celebrity category of the Teen Choice Awards. There were 9 winners in the category. Online voting determined the one Grand Prize winner. Each of them received $10,000 for their project and 19 year old Chad Bullock won a whopping $100,000. Scarlett Johansson presented The Do Something Award.

    May 18, 2009 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.