TUCSON, Ariz. — Musical performances and inspiring family stories were featured prominently on tonight’s MDA Show of Strength Telethon. The Muscular Dystrophy Association’s telethon aired for two hours on Sunday on ABC television stations nationwide.
As of 11 p.m. Pacific time, MDA’s tote totaled $54.1 million. Telethon donations will be accepted through midnight on Labor Day, when MDA will announce the final total.
For the first time ever, viewers tuning in to the telethon were able to track donations through an online tote board featured on mda.org. The tote consists of generous donations made by the American public through phone, online and texts, and contributions made by national sponsors who help MDA through their own fundraising campaigns leading into the telethon.
"Our heartfelt thanks go to the celebrities and performers who appeared, as well as to our wonderful national and local partners and the MDA families who shared their extraordinary stories of strength,” said MDA President and CEO Steven M. Derks. “Most of all, we have to thank the American public, whose continuing, generous support has helped MDA arrive at a point when lifesaving treatments for muscle diseases are on the horizon.”
Highlights of the 48th annual telethon included multiplatinum group the Backstreet Boys opening the show with a dual performance of their newest single "In A World Like This" and one of the most popular hits of their 20-year career, "I Want It That Way."
Performances during the nationally broadcast show included: teen pop sensation and 2013 MTV Video Music Awards "Artist to Watch" recipient Austin Mahone performing his hit single "What About Love”; platinum-selling country star Darius Rucker performing his summer anthem "Radio" from his new album "True Believers"; “Glee” actor/singer Matthew Morrison performing “On the Street Where You Live”; and award-winning country music artists Lee Ann Womack and Luke Bryan performing “I Hope You Dance” and “Country Man,” respectively.
Additional star power was provided by Ryan Seacrest; Enrique Iglesias; Paula Abdul; hip-hop dance crew Jabbawockeez; "American Idol" runner-up Jessica Sanchez; Kenny Loggins with the Blue Sky Riders; American blues rock band Vintage Trouble; and Universal recording artist and star from “The Voice” Chris Mann.
Additional presenters for the 2013 show included: ABC's Dr. Richard Besser; "Dancing with the Stars" contestant and “Brady Bunch” mom Florence Henderson; Emmy award-winning journalist Jann Carl; Olympic gold medal gymnasts Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner; and No Doubt drummer Adrian Young and his son, Mason Young.
The Telethon saluted its own history by featuring clips of memorable past performances, some fairly recent such as Grammy-nominee Pitbull and his 2012 performance of “Get it Started,” and a soulful Ray Charles medley, reaching as far back as the ‘70s. Viewers were invited to visit mda.org to vote for their own favorite “Memorable Moments” from telethons past, including several featuring longtime telethon host Jerry Lewis.
In addition to funds contributed by the public, substantial support was provided by MDA’s family of national partners, including the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), CITGO Petroleum Corp., The Safeway Foundation, Lowe’s, Harley-Davidson, Jiffy Lube, National Association of Letter Carriers, 7-Eleven, 7UP, Acosta Sales & Marketing, Burger King and Tall Cedars of Lebanon of North America.
IAFF, which has been raising funds for MDA since 1954 through community events such as the streetside “Fill the Boot” campaign, amassed a fundraising total of $26.1 million for this year’s telethon.
MDA’s mission encompasses dozens of neuromuscular diseases, including Duchenne muscular dystrophy. One segment focused on 11-year-old identical twins Nolan and Jack Willis from Fayetteville, N.Y., both of whom are affected by Duchenne MD and are taking part in a promising clinical trial.
The telethon also presented stories on individuals affected by spinal muscular atrophy, including 3-year-old Cooper Somers of Humble, Texas; 8-year-old Reagan Imhoff of New Berlin, Wis.; and Juan Morales, 28, of Pembroke Pines, Fla.
Also featured were India Peters, 21, of Oxon Hills, Md., who has facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy; and Ben Thomas, 32, a husband and father from St. George, Utah, who is fighting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Texas educator Veronica Niño who lost her battle to ALS last October after being featured on the 2012 telethon was paid tribute in a memorial segment.
Another young person affected by Duchenne MD is MDA’s National Goodwill Ambassador, 13-year-old Bryson Foster of Concord, N.C. Throughout the telethon, Bryson assisted announcer Shawn Parr in offering “stayed tuned” messages about upcoming performers.
MDA.org and Social Media
Besides making donations and voting on Memorable Moments, viewers were encouraged to check out and share exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from the telethon with celebrities and MDA families, view and submit a photo to a special Instagram gallery of "Make a Muscle" photos, and sign on to be a “Muscle Maker” for $19 a month. MDA social channels included Facebook at facebook.com/MDANational, Twitter at twitter.com/MDAnews, Google+ at mda.org/plus, Instagram at instagram/mda_usa and Pinterest at pinterest/mdanational.
MDA’s first Labor Day weekend telethon was broadcast in 1966 on a single New York station and has become the most successful fundraising event in the history of television. The show, with Jerry Lewis as its iconic host through 2010, and with help from a legion of top celebrities and entertainers as well as its family of sponsors, has raised millions each year to provide life-enhancing support and services for the families MDA serves.
“Forever Jerry Lewis will be MDA’s greatest ‘muscle-maker,’ a true hero in the hearts of millions,” Derks said. “We know the best way to honor him and all of the generations of past supporters on whose shoulders we stand today is to work harder and race faster to find new treatments and cures for our families.”
The Muscular Dystrophy Association is the world’s leading nonprofit health agency dedicated to finding treatments and cures for muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neuromuscular diseases. It does so by funding worldwide research; by providing comprehensive health care services and support to MDA families nationwide; and by rallying communities to fight back through advocacy, fundraising and local engagement. Visit mda.org and follow us at facebook.com/MDAnational and @MDAnews.