Inspiring, motivating, catalyzing, embracing – all of these words, yet none by itself can fully describe China Middle School’s JOY-based experience with Darius Weems, a young Georgia man with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), a genetic disease in boys that often leads to death by age 25.
Darius’s 19 year old brother died of DMD. At the age of 15, Darius produced the documentary “Darius Goes West”, sales of which raise awareness and money for research. China Middle School Specialist Hauns Bassett rented the movie for his JMG classes to support discussions about diversity, valuing differences, friendships and commitment. It was like starting a fire.
The students immediately wanted to find a way to help this young man they had never met and based on their enthusiasm, Hauns showed the movie to anyone who wanted to watch it. But the China students wanted more; they wanted to raise the $2000 needed to bring Darius to speak. So they did. They hosted community viewings of the documentary and sold merchandise from Darius’ organization –the proceeds are dedicated to DMD research. They raised $4000, enough to ask Darius to speak at both China Middle School and Biddeford High School.
Darius came and he hung out with the students. He spent the day at China Middle School meeting and talking to each individual student who wanted to talk. He rapped, he presented his cause and the whole community from the Town Manager to the state representative turned out.
The students shared their JOY experience with Darius – they had a common understanding of nonprofits and missions and community impact. And in Darius they found a peer with deep knowledge of how the need, the passion and the funding all come together.