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BIIIG Night in Syracuse

October 28, 2008

Quote of the day: “This is cooler than a Jonas Brothers concert!”–student at Jamesville Dewitt Middle School after meeting Darius.

That’s not an Obama supporter sign.  That’s a Darius Goes West supporter sign!

After our second stop in New York City, Darius and crew rode into Syracuse, NY, where we met our hosts Melissa Dardaris, Heather Meyer, and Alison Willis.

Melissa (in black) and Heather teach at Jamesville Dewitt Middle School. Last spring, JDMS screened Darius Goes West using our Know About It program.

Students wrote to Darius, begging him to come. Thanks, JDMS, for bringing us! Thanks, also, Heather and Melissa, who presented us with a GPS system for the RV–with all of our remaining stops on the trip pre-programmed! Great gift.

Alison is the mother of Caleb, Jack, and Nolan Willis. Jack and Nolan, who are twins, were diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) by a physical education teacher when they were five.

Alison and husband Matt founded Two Smiles One Hope to raise resources and awareness to aid researchers in finding a cure for DMD. Like all the folks we met in Syracuse, Alison and Matt are incredible people, and we had a blast spending time with their three wonderful sons.

As soon as we got in town, our hosts took us to George Leroy Manley Fieldhouse, where we played basketball…

met Syracuse’s Tully Dance Team…

and got to hang out with the men’s basketball team! Go, Orange! Darius’s favorite sport is basketball, and he was especially thrilled to meet head coach Jim Boeheim, one of the best coaches in the history of the game.

Coach Boeheim won a National Championship with Syracuse and has served as an assistant coach on the USA Men’s National Team. In 2005, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

In addition to all of his accolades with Syracuse, Coach Boeheim also has an amazing family. Here, Juli Boeheim presents Darius with a basketball signed by the whole team!

Before we left, Juli also made sure Darius could represent the Orange in style.

The next morning, we were startled by policemen in our hotel lobby–then Melissa came in and told us they were our escorts to the school…

where Darius got a TREMENDOUS reception!

Driver Daniel compares Darius’s affect on students to Beatle-mania. You can see why!

In total, there were 900 screaming middle schoolers greeting us!

The excitement was heightened by JDMS’s drum line.

When we finally made it inside, we got a chance to meet students in the cafeteria.

The students really relished the chance to meet D and share a few words.

It was really cool to see all the DGW gear.

In fact, the whole school was decked out to welcome Darius Goes West. The crew definitely needed the inspiration after what Melissa surprised us with next.

Earlier in the week, JDMS teachers ate spoonfuls of Wasabi to reward students for their fundraising, so Melissa got the crew up on stage and handed them ready-made spoonfuls.

She described it as “Darius’s revenge”! Here, Collin and John try to put on brave faces, while Sam doesn’t bother to hide.

Kevin, DGW’s still photographer, thought he was safe behind the camera–until Darius and the crew heckled him into joining the mayhem.

Darius laughed almost as loud as the JDMS students, but, after it was over…

they gave a big ovation to the crew.

Later, after delicious lunch ordered from Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, we met with JDMS fifth-graders.

Melissa presented Darius with a book full of great letters from students, and a couple of fifth-graders got to read theirs aloud to Darius. It was a wonderful wrap up to our visit with JDMS students….

but the day continued on! After a couple of hours recharging at the hotel, we went back to JDMS for dinner with the local Parent Teacher Group (PTG). Jack and Nolan drove (with a little help from Daniel)!

Dinner was fantastic, and the decor definitely made us feel welcome. Check out the posters in the background: “JD Joins Darius”! They meant it, too; to close dinner, Heather pledged that JD’s support for the cause will continue.

After the screening, Melissa, Heather and crew brought us on-stage…

where they presented Darius with a check from Jamesville Dewitt students’ fundraising efforts of $7,000! That’s awesome, JD!

They made sure to give a shout-out to Team Go-slabi (in the foreground, wearing green Goslabi shirts) for all of their hard work in making our trip to Syracuse so memorable.

Plus, Nolan, Caleb and Jack brought out a whopping donation of $25,000 from Two Smiles One Hope!

In yet another act of incredible generosity, County Executive Joanne Mahoney presented Darius with an official proclamation from the mayor. Mayor Matthew Driscoll declared it Darius Weems Community Recognition Day!

Syracuse showed us so much love. Thanks to the donations from Two Smiles One Hope and JDMS, and a huge night for merchandise sales, New York state has moved ahead of Georgia in the states’ race! Our own home state!

The name of the mayor’s proclamation is apt; Darius and the crew’s strength comes from community. In Syracuse, a school called James Dewitt joined with non-profit organization Two Smiles One Hope, and they mobilized an entire community to give us an unforgettable day.

Thank you so much, Melissa, Heather, Alison, Boeheim family, Donna DeRegis, Lisa Cote, Syracuse University, Jamesville Dewitt Middle School, and Syracuse! We’ve only been gone a little while, but we miss you already. Can’t wait to come back!


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27 Responses to “BIIIG Night in Syracuse”

  1. On October 29th, 2008, Miss Lenox' Homebase said:

    Darius and crew,

    Thank you for coming to JDMS! It was an EXCITING day! We were happy to help raise money and awareness for DMD. We will continue to spread the message about Darius Goes West! We already miss you too! We cannot wait to see the next Darius documentary. We are counting down until 1,000,000 DVDs are sold! DGW…Know About It!

    Lots of Love,
    Bora, Jane, Kerri, Maggie, Laura, Conner, Ben, Brad, Davis, and Miss Lenox

    P.S. Rex, our skeleton says, “Hi!” He is wearing a Darius shirt to help spread the message!!!! Yay!

  2. On October 29th, 2008, Adam D. and ryan said:

    hey i was in one of the pictures i was in the 1 with the 6 boys

  3. On October 29th, 2008, Abbey Yonta said:

    OMG!!!! I am on the website!!! I cant belive it. I am the one in the redish orangish north face with Colin ant Tessa. Brad hopped in the back. That is so cool. Thank you so much for coming to JDMS. Bye bye

  4. On October 29th, 2008, Patrick LaRussa said:

    Hey Darius thanks a bunch! That was lots of fun…especially watching the “goslabi” reactions. That movie i saw 3 times and it never got old and when i found out you were coming i was excited! So thanks again, it was lots of fun meeting you and your crew.

  5. On October 30th, 2008, Joe Lawrence said:

    October 29, 2008

    Dear our hero, Darius,

    Thank you so much for coming to our school, JDMS. Everyone was insane when you came rolling out of your oversized RV to greet all of us! We even got to miss half of 4th period, and the whole 5th period! Also, days before that, we forced our teachers to eat the green, unpronounceable food: wasabi! I was sort of scared of puke, so I sort of freaked out that someone would get sick. Luckily, none of the teachers puked. How could anyone even eat that!?!
    My favorite part of the documentary was the beginning of the part of pimping your wheelchair. But, if I were you, I would ask for a PlayStation 3. I was upset when the artists at “Pimp My Ride” refused to “Pimp your Ride.” You traveled the whole world, educating people about Muscular Dystrophy, and to pimp your rusty, banged-up wheelchair, and they couldn’t even add a PlayStation 3! You know what, I have something to say, “Pimp My Ride!” :-(


    Your #1 fan, Joe “Fro” Lawrence

  6. On October 30th, 2008, Jacob Eich said:

    Dear Darius and crew,

    Thank you so very much for coming. I was so ecstatic I almost started screaming like a little girl. My teacher told me that you could hear us all the way from Jamesville road. My favorite part was when you ate the wasabi. It was funny but I felt badly because it looked like you were in pain. I wish I could have been at the high school for the screening, but I had to go somewhere. I also heard that your favorite sport is basketball. It is my favorite too. I think it is great what you are doing to find a cure for DMD. I hope you to see you again soon. Thanks again.


  7. On October 30th, 2008, Collin C said:

    Dear Darius and Crew,
    You rock! Thank you for visiting our school. I liked it when I got to shake your hand and say, “Hi”. What you are doing to help find a cure for DMD is amazing. Your documentary was fun to watch. My favorite part of the movie was when Darius laughed. I enjoyed seeing Darius have a good time and be happy and do stuff he has never done. I wish I had enough money so I could buy a million DVD’s. I will encourage as many people as possible to buy your DVD’s. It would be awesome if you came back to our school.

    DGW Rocks,
    Collin Cota

  8. On October 30th, 2008, gavin gray said:

    Dear Darius,

    Thank you so much for coming to JDMS. In my books that is the best day i have ever seen. I thought it was awesome when your RV came I thought it couldn’t get any cooler. I WAS WRONG. Right after your arrival we got to have lunch where we got to meet you. I asked if you were ever going to eat wasabi again and you said, no way.
    I wish you could come to JDMS again. Thanks again golslibi man. Remember Best Day Ever.


  9. On October 30th, 2008, Macie Whitbeck said:

    Dear Darius,

    The first day I saw your documentary I was so eager to help. As soon as I got home, I told my family about “DGW” and they were just as touched as I was. When I found out Darius and his crew were coming to JDMS, I was so pumped to meet you. Everyone was. When I saw your bus come in Jamesville Dewitt, a flow of excitement filled my body. I just wanted to thank you so much for all that you do; coming to JD; and, most of all, raising money to find a cure for DMD. You are doing such a good thing not only for yourself, but also for every person that has DMD. You might not know it, but you’re a true hero.

    Stay Strong,

    Macie Whitbeck

  10. On October 30th, 2008, Madison B. said:

    Dear Darius and crew,

    I am writing this letter to inform you how much my friends and I appreciate you taking the time to come to JDMS. I think it is very nice that you are traveling around the United States to raise money to cure DMD. my friends and I appreciate you eating lunch with the students. My favorite part of the documentary was when Jason did the CRAZY weather report. My favorite part of you visiting is when you arrived to JDMS. I am sorry I did not buy your DVD yet, but I am getting it for my birthday next week. Every one at JDMS thinks you rock I will keep telling people about you and hopefully they will buy one of your DVDs. Keep rolling. We all love you. DGW I knew about!

    Your friend,
    Madison Beckwith

  11. On October 30th, 2008, Steven W. said:

    Dear Darius and Crew,
    Thanks for coming to visit JDMS! Everyone in the building, including me, was jumping with anxiety even before you arrived. It was one of the most memorable days of my life. My favorite part of the day was when you first arrived. The event was exhilarating. I was yelling out of pure excitement as soon as I saw you!
    It is amazing how you have devoted yourselves the way you have. I will probably never travel around the nation like you, but I will try to somehow support your cause, even if it is just buying one of Darius’ DVDs. Speaking of DVDs, I really enjoyed seeing your documentary. For some reason, when Darius went into the ocean for the first time, I felt like I was there as well, having fun and happy for him. It is too bad that you didn’t get onto Pimp My Ride, but you kept working after that. I am cheering for you and hope you reach your goal!
    Steven W.

  12. On October 30th, 2008, Emily O'C said:

    Dear “BIG D” and crew,
    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. Thank you for many things. First of all thanks for coming to JDMS. The whole staff and student body were ecstatic, overjoyed, and thrilled to have you and be able to meet you. I didn’t get to meet you during our lunch period, but I sat near you. My friend Julia and I made a huge sign to greet you with and I still have it in my room. It read; “Darius Goes NORTH Know about it”. Then we had a picture of bananas and a pig and said; “Go bananas your at JDMS” and “pig out on some goslabi”. I liked the one that said “We’ll pimp your ride (if we could). Darius you rock for trying to find a cure for DMD. You raise money, and I can’t wait for your one millionth DVD to be sold. I love your movie, but it was so wonderful that I couldn’t have a favorite part. You are the best for fundraising, and all you do. It will be almost impossible to wait for your next movie to come out. I nearly lost my voice when you showed up a JDMS.

    Rock on (Roll on),
    Emily O’Connor

  13. On October 30th, 2008, A JDMS STUDENT said:

    Dear Darius and Crew,

    Thank you so much coming to JDMS. I was so excited when you pulled into the bus loop. The noise level was insane! I probably went deaf in one ear, but it was worth it! I really think that your cause is important as global warming. As soon as I earn enough money, I am going to buy a DGW documentary. Speaking of which, the documentary is easily Oscar worthy. I have seen it three times and it never gets old. If you ever make more documentaries, I’ll be there to see it in two seconds. To close, all I have to say is I’ve heard my class cheering many times. This time, I cheered too! DGW: KNOW ABOUT IT!

    A JD student

  14. On October 30th, 2008, Gabriella Simiele said:

    Dear Darius and Crew,
    My name is Gabriella Simiele; I go to Jamesville Dewitt Middle School. Darius you are truly my hero, your life was sometimes harder because of DMD but you didn’t let that slow you down.
    When the RV pulled up to my school emotions overjoyed me and tears came to my eyes. I am in 6th grade this year and have known about you for a year but never in all my dreams did I think meeting was possible until then. I screamed “DGW”, at the top of my lungs and that night had a very sore throat. But nothing could keep could keep from the high school that night to watch the documentary and see you again. I had a fantastic a fantastic time and was able to get yours and Logan’s signature! I donated 5 dollars at the door and bought 1 DVD. To this day the part of the movie that makes me cry is when you talk about how you are the vehicle. After that I wanted to do anything I could to help and it was a coincidence that the next day I was going to a summit with other representatives for JD I told some people there about it and talked them into buying a DVD and they were all really into you.
    I will never forget you Darius and don’t forget “ When life slows down your wheels keep spinning”!

  15. On October 30th, 2008, Allison Hohreiter said:


    Dear Darius and crew,

    Thank you SO much for coming to JDMS. It was truly a one-of-a-kind experience. It was so exiting to stand outside the school and hold up our signs. We were constantly shouting at the top of our lungs, GO DARIUS! And YOU RULE DARIUS! It was hard to even hear my own thoughts! You guys were really funny, and nice. I was really sad when you had to go. But I hope you can come back sometime! By the way, I really loved your documentary. It was touching and it really opened my eyes to a disease that I didn’t know existed. My favorite part was when you got to go in the ocean for the first time. You really let me know how nice a person can be if they have a disease. But you also opened my eyes to how serious DMD is. And I hope you’re able to raise enough money to find a cure. DGW, KNOW ABOUT IT!

    Allison Hohreiter

  16. On October 30th, 2008, Kathryn W. said:

    Dear Darius and Crew,
    Thank you so much for coming to JDMS! I was ecstatic when I found out you were coming to our school!
    For me this whole thing started last year one afternoon when all the 5th grade classes were brought to the cafeteria. I had absolutely no idea how we would be spending our afternoon, but I soon found out.
    It turns out we watched Darius Goes West, your documentary. Before I watched the documentary I didn’t even know there was a disease called DMD. After watching the video I wasn’t sure what to feel. I guess in the end I felt happy and sad. I felt happy because Darius got the chance to travel west even though he has DMD. I am sad because DMD is a very unfortunate disease to have.
    There was a little talk about Darius coming to JDMS, but I didn’t think it would actually happen! This year I found out you WERE actually coming, and I could not believe it! I was so excited! Finally, the day came that Darius would come! Before that day though we were given the pleasure to watch the teachers eat one whole spoonful of wasabi. It was during 4th period that you arrived. After we left the building, everyone was screaming, posters were flying, drums were beating, and of course the massive mob of people were trying to somehow get closer to Darius.
    The whole experience was so amazing! It has changed my life, and it is a memory I will never forget! I will try to donate as much as I can for Darius and DMD.

    Kathryn W.

  17. On October 30th, 2008, Laura C. said:

    Dear Darius,
    Thank you for coming to our school. It really meant a lot. Also thank you for helping other people with DMD. You aren’t doing it for yourself, but you’re doing it for other people. My favorite part of your visit was when they slowly opened the back of the RV. When you came out I was really excited. I was joyful that you came to our school. My favorite part of the documentary was when you at wasabi. I am glad that you were able to see your crew eat wasabi. To support you, my family and I will buy your DVD. My brother’s friend has muscular dystrophy. On a weekend in the summer we have a lemonade stand. We give 90% of it to the cure for muscular dystrophy. We will try to do better at the lemonade stands. I hope you have a great time on the rest of your trip!

    Laura C.

  18. On November 1st, 2008, rachel d and buddd said:

    darius omg thank you so much for coming to jdms that was awsomeeeee thanks again -buddd

    it was so much fun! i liked getting my picture taken with you! -rachel d

  19. On November 3rd, 2008, Ms. Dardaris said:

    Wow is all that I can say. I am sitting here at my desk reading what all of these kids have written in response to the blog. How incredible that they really do ‘get it’. Thank you so much for everything that you did for us. We will continue to help in the quest for a cure for DMD. We will be in touch soon!
    -Ms. Dardaris

  20. On November 6th, 2008, HEATHER MEYER said:

    Darius and the crew,
    Well, it has been a couple of weeks and the memories remain vivid. The students screaming, the drum line, the police escort, the laughter, the lunchroom pictures, the tears and the fun. We were blessed to have the opportunity to spend a few days with such quality young men. Each of you were gracious in spite of sleep deprivation and colds.

    Please know that we are more committed than ever to stand along each of you and fight to help find a cure for DMD. It is a fight we must win!!!!! And, speaking of winning, NEW YORK STATE WILL WIN THE RECORD FOR MOST DVD SALES! Know about it!!!

    Until we meet again, safe travel, good health and occasional rest be granted to all……

  21. On November 7th, 2008, Chris Lenish said:

    Dude dynasty for life!!!!!! Triangle= D= dynasty, su basketball number 1 baby!!!! i support DGW

  22. On November 8th, 2008, Dariusgoeswest said:

    Folks, all these comments mean so much to us! You are an amazing group of teachers, students, and people! We’re wondering if rex the skeleton was able to see our Halloween wishes?
    And, we can’t wait to see you all again soon!

  23. On November 9th, 2008, Laura Lenox said:

    Rex did see your Halloween video. He was so scared, his bones were shaking! Hope you had a great Halloween!

  24. On November 14th, 2008, dylan volk said:

    dude u rock!U must be rich??!!! Have a good life. and say hi to ben cohen

  25. On December 1st, 2008, Maggie Austin said:

    Hey Darius and Crew!
    I know that this is a little late, but better late than never! I just wanted to say thanks for coming to JDMS! It was an awesome experience; I’ll never forget it! The documentary was touching, and my mom bought 11 DVD’s!!!! Together we can find a cure for DMD!! Also, Jack and Nolan Willis are my second-cousins!

    Thanks so much!
    Maggie Austin

  26. On December 15th, 2008, kyle benedict said:

    wow, i dont even know how to express my excitement and how proud i am to see this post. as a current resident of atlanta, a complete stranger told me about DGW one night when i was out in a bar because i too am in a wheelchair (as a paraplegic). they told me about this fantastic voyage of an incredible young man suffering from DMD. well, earlier this summer i finally got around to buying the movie and have been a supporter ever since…

    so, imagine my surprise when i saw my hometown middle school mentioned in this DGW update!! such a great and uplifting feeling seeing all those pictures and video. darius is a true inspiration to everyone, especially me. great job syracuse and J-D for welcoming darius and crew!!

    darius, happy holidays, good luck in the rest of your voyages, and finally, you are always welcome to come hang with me in atlanta!

    Kyle Benedict
    J-D class of 2000

  27. On March 5th, 2010, Joe Lawrence said:

    lol 2 years after this! hi Darius it would be awesome if you came to our school again! (JD Middle)

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