TUCSON, Ariz. — Eleven-year-old Abbey Umali of Redlands, Calif., has a return engagement with the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon over Labor Day weekend, Sept. 5-6. This time, she’ll break new ground by becoming the first child ever to open the 21½-hour national broadcast expected to be watched by more than 40 million Americans.
“Over the years, MDA has benefited from highly effective national goodwill ambassadors,” said Gerald C. Weinberg, MDA president & CEO and Telethon executive producer. “Abbey is a standout in this amazing group of young people. When she opens our 2010 show, America will be hooked. Then, our dazzling array of some 65 top acts will keep viewers engaged so they have a chance to hear why it’s so important to support MDA.”
Umali, now serving her third term as National Goodwill Ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. CMT is a neuromuscular disorder that causes damage to nerves, and leads to muscle weakness and wasting. She walks with the aid of leg braces.
For more than two years, Umali has traveled the country with her parents, Joel and Wendi, spreading the word about MDA’s mission to find treatments and cures for more than 40 different muscle-damaging diseases, including CMT.
In addition to appearing on the show to talk about her MDA leadership role, Umali will sing (see her 2009 performance); thank MDA national sponsors making live check presentations for their year-round fundraising work for MDA; and deliver proceeds she’s earned by reading 50 books during her six-week personal “read-a-thon” for MDA. Umali, an inspiration for any educator or parent of a primary or secondary school student, already has eclipsed the $5,000+ she achieved in her 2009 "read-a-thon."
The national broadcast of the Telethon will originate again from the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa in Las Vegas, beginning at 9 p.m. EDT Sept. 5, and concluding at 6:30 p.m. EDT, Sept. 6. In greater Los Angeles, the Telethon can be seen on KCAL, Channel 9.
“We’re delighted to have Abbey back on our show,” added Weinberg. “She’s a bundle of charm and energy with an outstanding singing voice. That’s why, in addition to opening our show, Abbey will be performing and interacting with MDA national sponsors making check presentations representing their year-round fundraising work for MDA.”
The Telethon will be broadcast to nearly 40 million viewers in the United States and Canada via more than 170 television stations in MDA’s "Love Network.” Millions more worldwide are expected to see the show live via RealNetworks at www.mda.org.
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.
The first nonprofit to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Medical Association (“for significant and lasting contributions to the health and welfare of humanity”), MDA maintains clinics for area adults and children with neuromuscular diseases at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey and Loma Linda University Pediatric Neuroscience Center in San Bernardino.