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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    It’s About the Journey, Not the Destination

    “Feels like I’m king of the world,” said teary-eyed Darius Weems, looking out into the horizon with a view of the Grand Canyon surrounding him. This was one of the many touching moments of the documentary “Darius Goes West” that played Thursday night in the Staller Center.

    The film takes place on a cross-country road trip from Athens, Georgia all the way to California. Darius and 12 college students go on the adventure of their lives to show Darius all he wants to see before his disease, Duchene muscular dystrophy, takes over.

    The disease has a 100% fatality rate and is the number one genetic killer of children. It slowly takes over all the skeletal muscles in the body, including the heart, until they cannot control their muscles anymore.

    This disease took Darius’ brother’s life, Mario, a few years ago. Mario asked the director of the film, Logan Smalley, to take care of Darius before he died and Smalley is now one of Darius’ best friends.

    One of the main goals for this journey was to have MTV customize Darius’ wheelchair on “Pimp My Ride”. They all believed that if Darius was to tell his story on television, it would have raised awareness about the disease and millions of people would have started to care and want to help to find a cure.

    The film became more than about getting on TV. It was about true friendship and the journey of a lifetime. Without any help from MTV, they touched the lives of millions and they are still at it.

    The film has won over 25 awards and they are making their way around the country showing the film in schools and connecting with children who are going through the same thing that Darius is going through now.

    Local charity, Hope for Javier, welcomed Darius and his crew to Stony Brook this past week. The charity is named after the four-year-old Stony Brook resident Javier Romero who was diagnosed three years ago. “When I first learned that my son was sick I felt fear, anger and anxiety,” said Javier’s mother, Jennifer Portnoy. “I stayed up late so many nights searching the Internet about the disease, and then I found out the horrible truth. I kept asking myself why? Why my son? And then I saw this movie and it gave me hope for my son’s future. The movie has made this bearable and given me this big hope that doctors will find a cure.”

    The movie was unlike most documentaries. Darius doesn’t want anyone to give him sympathy. He wants everyone to be happy and put a smile on our faces. That’s just what he did with this movie. There were parts that made the audience choke up, but during the majority of the movie everyone was laughing and smiling.

    On screen the guys were making fun of each other and treating Darius just like they were with one another. In one scene, everyone thought it would be funny to trick Darius into eating wasabi, an extremely hot Japanese horseradish that not only irritates the taste buds, but it will clear up your sinuses in an instant. He never had it before and didn’t understand how strong it was going to be. He agreed to eat a spoon full for $10 and the facial expression on his face explained it all. Tears streamed from his eyes as he grabbed every drink in sight hoping to cool off the burning sensation in his mouth. This is one of the more famous moments in the movie not only because it makes you laugh, but also because of what he thought wasabi was called. Only the movie does this part justice. It’s a must see.

    “There’s just been such a great reaction from so many people across the country to this movie,” said Ricardo Romero, Javier’s father, “and so many people want to be a part of the change. Everyone wants to help.” You can help too. Check out what this movement is all about. Become a part of the change and do something. Go to www.DariusGoesWest.com or www.HopeForJavier.org and be “in the know”. After this movie you will have a different outlook on life and more appreciation for what’s going on in the world. Help Darius, Javier and all the other kids going through this, to live happy and fulfilling lives. It’s what we all want.

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