When Logan Smalley makes a promise, he keeps it. While working as a camp counselor at Project Reach in Athens, Georgia, he met Mario Weems, a brave young man with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Mario was only 19 when he died, but before he passed, he asked Logan to look out for his little brother Darius, who also was afflicted with DMD. So when Darius turned 15 and decided that he wanted to go to LA and get MTV’s “Pimp My Ride” to trick out his wheelchair, the two cooked up a plan to make something big out of it.
And boy, did they! Darius Goes West is an award-winning documentary that came out of the rollicking road trip that Darius, who had never been away from home, Logan, and ten best friends made from Athens to Los Angeles and back again. Logan, with no previous experience in film, directed the documentary which won 28 top prizes in the 30 film festivals at which it was featured. And once you see it, you’ll understand why — it’s hilarious, heartbreaking, insightful, inciting, and absolutely engaging. While you’re riding shotgun in an RV through 22 states with 12 guys (not exactly my idea of a good time), you’ll fall in love with Darius and his extraordinary spirit, and come to despise this awful disease.
DMD, the #1 genetic killer of kids in the world, is a degenerative nerve disease that will gradually attack every muscle in the body. Children with DMD generally die in their teens or early 20s; nobody really lives past 30. Darius wanted to go on MTV to be his generation’s Jerry Lewis—to use his rapping skills to generate attention about the disease and raise money for a cure. But he also wanted to show everybody in a wheelchair that “you can’t just sit around like a bump on a log. You got to get out there and live until you can’t live no more.”
The beautiful part of the story is two-fold: Darius just turned 21 and celebrated his birthday at a fund-raising professional poker tournament in Las Vegas last week. And Logan and Darius have turned the documentary into a brilliant educational vehicle – giving it away free to any educator who wants to use it in the classroom –with a skype-conversation with Darius afterwards. And all proceeds from sales and fundraising of Darius Goes West go to Charley’s Fund, an organization established to find a treatment or cure for DMD that is making significant advances in research. (Logan and Darius have reached millions of schoolchildren and raised over $1.5 million for research.)
My $100 today goes to Darius Goes West — and I’m definitely going to try to get it into all the schools I know. You have to see this film – it’s 94 minutes of pure love! Click here to buy the DVD.(And remember, $7 out of the $10 goes directly to Charley’s Fund!)