Barry Saunders

Eve's brother a believer

If you're anything like me, you wouldn't even think about riding cross country in an RV with 11 other dudes.

Of course, if you are anything like me, you wouldn't think that you could change the world, either.

Yet, that's what Andrew Carson and his pals are trying to do. With the fervor, belief and lack of cynicism to be found only in the young, Carson and his college and camp buddies set out in an RV and a van from Chapel Hill in September to change the world.

(Pssst. Don't dare tell 'em they can't do that.)

Carson, the brother of slain UNC-Chapel Hill Student Body President Eve Carson, and his friends are on a mission to call attention to the deadly affliction Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

What?

Precisely.

Carson and his friends hope to raise awareness and about $17 million by selling DVDs of "Darius Goes West," a documentary film they made in 2007. It is about the students' effort to show teenager Darius Weems the country and trick out his wheelchair before he succumbs to Duchenne, as his brother Mario did.

"Darius had never left Athens (Ga.)," Carson said. "We wanted him to see the world and get on MTV and teach a generation about the disease and about caring."

The idea for the documentary, which has won 28 awards in film festivals, came while Logan Smalley, the documentary's director, Carson and others were doing what we parents fear college kids do all the time anyway -- watching television. Specifically, MTV's "Pimp My Ride," in which clunker cars get customized.

"Mario asked Logan to look after Darius," Carson said. "We all got to know Darius at camp. ... We were watching 'Pimp My Ride' and decided we wanted to make the wheelchair cool.

"MTV has 70 million viewers and many of them are the age of the children who live and die from Duchenne," Carson said.

Darius is 19, the same age his brother was when he died.

When I called Carson on Sunday afternoon, he was in Portland, Ore., showing the documentary (www.dariusgoeswest.org) to yet another captivated crowd at Portland State University. By the time he called back seven hours later, the crew and he were in Seattle, doing the same thing and, he said, receiving the same enthusiastic reception at the University of Washington.

"It's a fun trip," he said. "The reception everywhere has been great. Chapel Hill was a great kickoff" for the tour.

Carson said crew members share all roles "but right now, I'm the caretaker for Darius."

I noted that his sister, Eve, who was killed March 5, 2008, was also involved in community service work.

"It comes from my parents," he said. "They wanted to instill that sense of caring and giving in us."

Carson took the year off from Davidson College, where he majors in economics and Chinese, so he could travel the country raising awareness of Duchenne and money.

Perhaps by doing so, his friends and he can help people like Darius. People who don't have a year to take off. People who, as they near 20, may not even have a year.

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