In what’s become the ultimate great American variety show, the Muscular Dystrophy Association will present the 38th annual Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon on Labor Day weekend, Aug. 31-Sept. 1.
The Telethon will air for 20½ hours beginning at 9:00 p.m. CDT on Sunday, Aug. 31. The show originates from CBS Television City in Hollywood, and will be seen on some 200 “Love Network” stations nationwide, including KTRE-TV9, Lufkin / Nacogdoches.
The Telethon can also be viewed on MDA’s Web site, www.mdausa.org, via streaming video provided by RealNetworks. The broadcast raises funds and awareness to support MDA’s programs of research and services benefiting people with neuromuscular diseases.
Telethon organizers have jumped on the talent search/reality show bandwagon for this year’s broadcast, and are conducting a “Stars Across America” talent search for America’s freshest singers, dancers, comedians, bands and novelty acts. The show will also feature its traditional roundup of celebrities and well-known performers whose appeal spans many generations.
The Telethon’s national broadcast will also feature breakaways to remote locations. A New York remote will showcase the grand talent of Broadway, and a Milwaukee segment will help celebrate the 100th anniversary of longtime MDA sponsor Harley-Davidson.
Lewis, MDA’s national chairman and star of the Telethon, will again be at the helm.
“Every year I’m energized by the knowledge that millions of Americans share my goal of wiping out these awful diseases,” Lewis said. “Telethon viewers will learn about MDA’s lifesaving programs, and they’ll also get to see a wide variety of talent and entertainment.”
Assisting Lewis will be longtime Telethon anchor Ed McMahon, a member of the Association’s Board of Directors.
Also helping Lewis will be co-hosts Jann Carl of “Entertainment Tonight,” television personality Cynthia Garrett, and comedians Norm Crosby and Bob Zany. Carl is an MDA director, and Garrett and Crosby are national vice presidents.
Two amazing teenagers will be spotlighted: recording artist Billy Gilman and best-selling poet and peacemaker Mattie Stepanek. The two recently collaborated on the album “Music Through Heartsongs.”
Mattie, 13, serves as MDA’s National Goodwill Ambassador and is the author of five volumes of poetry. Mattie and his mother, Jeni, will be featured in a videotaped profile that details their challenges in living with a rare neuromuscular disease, mitochondrial myopathy.
Billy, 15, is an award-winning singer whose first album, the double-platinum “One Voice,” was released a week after his 12th birthday in 2000. Billy serves as MDA’s national youth chairman, and will host special youth segments on the Telethon.
Along with entertainment, the Telethon will educate viewers about neuromuscular diseases; MDA’s cutting-edge, scientific search for treatments and cures; and the Association’s life-enhancing service programs.
The 2002 MDA Telethon set a record in pledges and donations of $58.3 million. Lewis said that, as always, his goal remains to surpass that total by one dollar.
MDA is a voluntary health agency working to defeat more than 40 neuromuscular disease through programs of worldwide research, comprehensive services, and far-reaching professional and public health education. The Association’s programs are funded almost entirely by individual private contributors.
— Adapted from the Muscular Dystrophy Association 2003 Digital Media Kit