TRY OUT this math problem: calculating Savannah’s response to last weekend’s local premiere of the film Darius Goes West: The Roll of His Life. Last Thursday night, nineteen year old Darius Weems of Athens cruised into Savannah with a crew of buddies and an RV full of DVDs of the film.
Add 4 (Savannah events in two days,) plus 6 (Savannahians who organized or funded those events,) plus 12 (Athens guys in their teens and twenties who drove cross country in an RV and made the film about their travels,) plus 17 (dollars donated to muscular dystrophy research for every Darius DVD sold,) plus 400 (students at Benedictine) plus 500 (audience members at the Friday screening of Darius at the Civic Center.)
Then add another 500 (DVDs sold in Savannah last weekend,) plus 600 (students in Country Day’s middle and upper schools,) plus 20,000 (total number of Darius DVDs sold to date.)
The crew of Darius Goes West wants the total of this math problem to equal one million by the end of September.
Their goal is to sell one million DVD’s of the film in one year, to raise $17,000,000 for research towards curing Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a fatal, genetic illness.
Darius Weems has Duchenne’s. Darius’ older brother Mario died of Duchenne’s at age 19.
Darius Weems had never left his hometown until the summer of 2005, when eleven guys from Athens took him across the United States in a rented RV in hopes of getting his wheelchair tricked out on MTV’s “Pimp My Ride.” The film is, among other things, the story of the journey by this motley crew.
We’re not talking about a bunch of buttoned-up, middle-aged business men. Only one of Weems’ eleven traveling buddies was over 25 years old, and many had graduated from high school just weeks before the trip.
But most buttoned up business types could learn a lot from the organizational effort that has grown out of this project. From one teenager’s dream for a pimped out wheelchair has sprung a film, a non-profit organization, corporate sponsorships, a website, a school curriculum, an international following, and, to date, $340,000 in contributions toward curing Duchenne’s.
To find out how the trip went, you’ll have to watch the film, which has won awards at over 25 film festivals.
“They’re trying to come back in May,” says Margaret Cheatham Hubbard, a member of the local organizing team. Hubbard, her husband Carter, and friend Tali Wojnowich worked with the administration of their alma mater, Country Day, to get the film shown in classes in January.
Friday afternoon, Darius and company visited Country Day, after a morning visit to Benedictine coordinated by Tim and Alisa Blanco.
“We walked out into the quad and all the students screamed at Darius, how much they loved him,” says Daniel Epting, a crew member and the driver of the Darius Goes West RV.
According to Epting, both Weems and Logan Smalley have already received bunches of online friend requests from Country Day and Benedictine students. The cross country trip and the film were Smalley’s idea. He met Darius and Mario while a counselor at Project REACH, a camp for children with disabilities, and was also a high school classmate and friend of Mario’s.
Marty Johnston, the founder of Project REACH, now lives in Savannah, and assisted the organizing committee with securing the crew’s venue and hotel.
A Friday night screening in the Civic Center ballroom drew 500 people. “It included a bunch of kids, we had some church groups represented,” says Epting. “It was cool running into people who had heard about it through school forums. It was cool to see how all the different media are coming together.”
At 20,000 DVD’s sold so far, the Darius crew has a long way to go to hit their goal of one million. Based on the buzz after Friday’s screening, Savannah’s longstanding high school rivalries could be instrumental in that effort.
During the Q&A session, a Savannah High School staffer committed to purchasing a DVD for her school’s library—part of an effort kicking off next month to get a DVD into every middle and high school in the U.S.
And after the screening, two students and a teacher from St. Vincent’s Academy were seen huddled with Epting, plotting a Darius challenge against BC.
It’s a high school math problem that could add up to something big. cs