LAS VEGAS — The new era of prime-time Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethons has started. In six prime-time hours last night, the organization leading the fight against progressive muscle diseases delivered on its promise of an outstanding 46th annual MDA Labor Day Telethon. MDA today announced that its 2011 Telethon raised $61,491,393 — up from the $58,919,838 achieved during the prior year’s 21½-hour Telethon. This is the biggest Telethon achievement since 2008, when the global recession began. Contributions still can be made online at mda.org or by calling 800-FIGHT-MD (800-344-4863).
“We’re so grateful to everyone who made this amazing outcome possible,” said MDA President & CEO Gerald C. Weinberg. “Kudos must go to our four outstanding Telethon co-hosts, to the entertainment icons performing and making persuasive appeals, to our incredible cause-marketing partners, to more than 150 television stations comprising the ‘Love Network,’ and to generous Americans in every community. Together, we’ve confirmed that prime time is where our Telethon can achieve the most for the families we serve.”
The landmark prime-time benefit opened with inspiring remarks about Jerry Lewis by the Telethon’s four co-hosts. Later in the first hour, Celine Dion also saluted her “dear friend Jerry Lewis” and then sang “Open Arms.”
The fast-paced show featured Billboard chart toppers including Lady Antebellum, Boyz II Men, Darius Rucker, Richie Sambora, Martina McBride and Jordin Sparks. Their masterful performances and many more, along with special appeals by Ryan Seacrest, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler, Randy Jackson, Barbara Walters, Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Sherri Shepherd, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, NBA great Dwight Howard, as well as NFL stars Reggie Bush and Kurt Warner, helped galvanize America into action for MDA.
R. Rodney Howell, M.D., Chairman of the MDA Board of Directors said, “The tremendous success of the Telethon, even in a tough economy where some communities are also being challenged by natural disasters, shows that America understands and appreciates the truly rapid progress being made by MDA-funded researchers worldwide. More and more clinical trials are under way, testing potential therapeutics, so now truly is the time to invest even more in lifesaving research. Together, we can speed treatments and cures for progressive muscle diseases.”
The MDA Labor Day Telethon originated for the sixth year from the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas. Co-hosts for the incredibly successful network show watched by tens of millions of viewers were Nigel Lythgoe (“American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance”), Nancy O’Dell (“Entertainment Tonight”), Alison Sweeney (NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” and author of The Mommy Diet) and Jann Carl (Emmy-winning journalist and independent producer). The New York City telecast was hosted by Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Ace Young, and the Chicago telecast was co-hosted by Olympic gold medalists Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner. People in more than 20 countries also watched the Telethon stream at mda.org, where behind-the-scenes moments, bonus performance tracks and Telethon highlights still can be seen on demand.
The family of MDA sponsors includes: Acosta, Augie’s Quest, Bally Total Fitness, Burger King, CITGO, Clear Channel Radio, ClubCorp, ERA Franchise Systems LLC, DECA, Dr Pepper Snapple Group/Seven Up, Harley-Davidson Motor Co., International Association of Fire Fighters, Jiffy Lube, Kappa Alpha Order, Lowe’s Home Improvement, The National Beta Club, National Association of Letter Carriers, National Coalition of Associations of 7-Eleven Franchisees, Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen, 7-Eleven of Oklahoma, Safeway, Tall Cedars of Lebanon of North America, Universal Cheerleaders Association, Valero Energy Corporation and Walgreens.
MDA is the nonprofit health agency dedicated to curing muscular dystrophy, ALS and related diseases by funding worldwide research. The Association also provides comprehensive health care and support services, advocacy and education. See the award-winning MDA "Make a Muscle, Make a Difference ®" PSA, as well as MDA VNR announcing Monday's launch of a 24-week phase 2 clinical trial of a potential therapeutic for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
In addition to funding more than 300 research projects worldwide, MDA maintains a national network of some 200 hospital-affiliated clinics; orchestrates hundreds of support groups for families affected by neuromuscular diseases; and facilitates extraordinary local summer camp opportunities for thousands of youngsters fighting progressive muscle diseases. Known globally for the MDA Labor Day Telethon, the Association is the first nonprofit organization to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Medical Association "for significant and lasting contributions to the health and welfare of humanity."