TUCSON, Ariz., Aug. 22, 2013 — Ben Thomas, 32, of St. George, Utah, will be featured on the 48th annual national broadcast of the MDA Show of Strength Telethon on Labor Day weekend, Sunday, Sept. 1, 9/8c, on ABC television stations across the country.
With support from his wife, Jena, and 3-year-old daughter Emmerson, the Thomas family will share their "story of strength" in a videotaped profile during the two-hour broadcast of the MDA telethon that will air on KTVX, ABC Channel 4, for residents in the Salt Lake City area. See a sneak peak of Thomas' profile here.
Thomas was diagnosed as having ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) only four months after his daughter was born. ALS attacks the nerve cells that control muscles, ultimately resulting in paralysis of all voluntary muscles, including those used for breathing. Average life expectancy is three to five years after diagnosis.
Since receiving the devastating diagnosis, Thomas' main focus has been making every moment spent with his wife and daughter count, which includes watching his little girl play and learn. He writes letters to her so she can remember and get to know him as she grows up.
While ALS has stolen Thomas' ability to walk and has made it harder for him to speak, he is determined to share his powerful message about love, family and the hope for a cure for ALS.
“MDA is honored to introduce Ben Thomas to the American public,” said MDA President and CEO Steven Derks. “The Thomas family epitomizes the true meaning of ‘strength,’ as they have graciously and bravely agreed to share their compelling story. Our deepest thanks go to them for helping convey the urgent, lifesaving and life-enhancing nature of our mission.”
The Thomas family is one of six MDA families who will tell their stories of survival and hope during the 2013 broadcast. This year's telethon will deliver one-of-a-kind show performances, powerful "stories of strength" and moving calls-to-action to help families affected by muscle diseases.
MDA maintains clinics for area children and adults with neuromuscular diseases at the University of Utah Medical Center (also the site of an MDA/ALS center) in Salt Lake City.
The 2013 telethon will feature a star-studded celebrity lineup, including: Ryan Seacrest; Backstreet Boys; country stars Luke Bryan, Darius Rucker and Lee Ann Womack; "Glee" star Matthew Morrison; Enrique Iglesias; Paula Abdul; teenage pop sensation Austin Mahone; 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 include: 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.
As in the past, the entertainment event will raise funds and awareness to support MDA’s mission to help children and adults affected by progressive and often fatal muscle diseases.
While the telethon has consistently enjoyed robust support from some of the biggest celebrities in show business, the real stars on the telethon are the individuals and families served by MDA.
The MDA telethon is one of America’s longest-standing and beloved fundraising and entertainment events. For 48 years, funds raised by MDA telethons also have contributed to the organization’s worldwide research program. Today, through current clinical trials, there is growing excitement that new lifesaving treatments and discoveries are on the horizon for many of the disorders MDA is dedicated to defeating, including Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
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, has raised millions each year to provide life-enhancing support and services for the families MDA serves.
Visit mda.org/muscle to learn more about the 2013 MDA telethon.
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.
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