MDA Announces End of Its 60 Year Old Labor Day Telethon Famously Hosted by Jerry Lewis

Jewish Business News joins everyone over the age of 30 -- well, 35 at least -- in an affectionate goodbye to what we all have known as "Jerry's Kids."


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After six decades, the annual Labor Day telethon for Muscular Dystrophy, known best for having been hosted by the comedy legend Jerry Lewis, is coming to an end. The Muscular Dystrophy Association has announced its decision to cancel the telethon.

Known affectionately as “Jerrys’ Kids” for the man who became synonymous with the cause of finding a cure, children who suffer from the debilitating illness from birth lose control of various muscles and suffer shorter life spans.

The 89 year old Lewis was born Joseph Levitch in Newark, New Jersey. He stopped hosting the show personally in 2011.


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Anyone who grew up in America before the advent of cable remembers the annual telethon. It would air all day long on the Labor Day Holiday. But competition from the multitude of other available programming led to the show’s reduction to only 2 hours in the past two years.

Also, the Internet and social media have mooted the need for telethons as a vehicle for raising awareness about an illness and the funds needed to combat it.

MDA now plans to build on programs tied to its brand promise of seeking muscle health and strength and advancing everyday activities — the ability to walk, talk, run, hug and even breathe — for kids and adults with these debilitating diseases, in order to raise funds in the future.

For example, last year, MDA launched a highly successful endurance fundraising initiative in which walkers and runners can participate in marathons and other endurance events to raise donations for the fight, in essence using their muscles to strengthen others.



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“The decision to end our beloved telethon was not made lightly, ” said MDA President and CEO Steven M. Derks. “In the last few years, the show was adjusted to reflect changes in viewership and donor patterns, and last summer’s Ice Bucket Challenge once again affirmed for us that today’s families, donors and sponsors are looking to us for new, creative and organic ways to support our mission.”

“We have ambitious plans to leverage our history, the compelling stories of our families and our record of innovation — just like we did decades ago when we introduced the telethon and cause-marketing for nonprofit organizations — as we continue to use creative ways to connect with supporters and deliver more value for our sponsors, never forgetting the families who are at the very heart of our mission, ” Derks said.

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