Something really special is happening tonight, and I know it’s special to many of you. It’s the MDA Show of Strength Telethon on ABC at 9/8c.
For decades, the MDA telethon has been a staple on the list of favorite Labor Day weekend traditions. It’s entertained and inspired millions with fantastic performances by some of America’s top celebrities and entertainers. I’m not sure where we’d be without the incomparable Jerry Lewis, to whom we owe enormous gratitude for bringing the fight against muscle disease to the world’s stage and helping raise millions for the fight. The telethon has highlighted the generosity of our national sponsors and a giving public. But above all, it’s brought into living rooms across the globe stories of inspiration, resilience, dignity and hope from the members of our MDA family — men, women and children fighting muscle disease.
Tonight’s Show of Strength Telethon will introduce you to some new MDA family members. They’re people like 13-year-old Kasey Bennett in Houston, who doesn’t let Duchenne muscular dystrophy affect his dreams of becoming a football or basketball coach; and Eric Von Schaumburg in Chicago, who keeps a positive outlook despite having ALS and who lives to inspire others with the disease.
You’ll hear from our MDA families in Los Angeles, Michigan and Massachusetts — children who enjoy math, kickball games at recess, music, outside activities and MDA summer camp, all courageously confronting muscle disease challenges.
You’ll also get to hear from generous sponsors, some of whom have partnered with us for decades — like the International Association of Fire Fighters. Throughout 2014, we’re celebrating “60 Years Strong” of working together to find cures. We will also feature our first national sponsor, the National Association of Letter Carriers, whose members work hard to help us “deliver cures,” as well as the sturdy Tall Cedars of North America who’ve been supporting MDA since 1951.
You’ll hear from other caring organizations whose big hearts accelerate our progress. Harley-Davidson, Lowe’s and CITGO get involved with MDA at every level to help bring life-changing support. And others — Corner Store, 7-Eleven, Acosta, 7UP, Burger King, Jiffy Lube and the Safeway Foundation — all have a hand in our quest for treatments and cures.
And of course, we are grateful for our musical artists and celebrities who graciously dedicate their time and talent to bring notoriety, engagement and education to our cause.
This year, we have numerous celebrity performances — including Rascal Flatts and LeAnn Rimes, plus Aloe Blacc, American Authors, Bret Michaels, Fall Out Boy, Jason Derulo, Matt Nathanson, R5 and Sara Evans. There will also be heartfelt introductions and appeals from Laila Ali, Tom Bergeron, ABC’s Dr. Richard Besser, Jann Carl, Charles Esten, Terry Fator, Kevin Frazier, Josh Groban, Ludacris, Susan Lucci, Kesha, Alyssa Milano, Nancy O’Dell, Victor Ortiz, Chris Powell and Jordin Sparks — who’ve taken time out of their busy schedules to show their strength for MDA. We are indebted to them and everyone else associated with the telethon for helping us save and improve the lives of people fighting muscle disease.
Finally, you’ll hear about hope through the eyes of researchers zeroing in on treatments and cures for the 43 diseases in our program. All of us working together as civil society —- scientists, clinicians and health care professionals, families, donors, business and civic leaders, and elected officials —- to eradicate these diseases and support those living with them is so incredibly important. It is the best of humanity working toward a noble, important and life-affirming and lifesaving cause that has application to our world and other challenges at large.
We’re making remarkable progress in this fight. It is indeed a marathon, not a sprint. But today, because of the leadership and diligence of our forbearers, there are more trials being conducted today than ever before to test experimental treatments for so many of the diseases in MDA’s program — like ALS, spinal muscular atrophy, and Duchenne, Becker and myotonic muscular dystrophies.
We would not be at this exciting point without your help. That’s progress that you helped deliver. Truth be told, so many of “Jerry’s kids,” as they used to be known, are growing up — the very best sign that advances are being made.
We’ve all seen the ALS ice bucket challenge craze washing across America, which we certainly appreciate since ALS is one of the diseases MDA has led the fight against since Eleanor Gehrig served as our national chair in the 1950s. The viral campaign has created waves of support. A lot of people are asking how they can get involved, what they can do to make a difference in the ALS and muscle disease fight. Three easy first steps are watching the MDA telethon, learning more on our site at mda.org and considering a donation.
It really is the most hopeful time ever in the fight against muscle disease. Breakthroughs for longer life spans and improved quality of life are within reach. Treatments and cures are on the horizon. And, with your help, we’ll get there. Together, we are progress!
Thank you for your engagement and your help!