How many Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) ‘Telethons’ were hosted on U.S. TV by Jerry Lewis?
Jerry Lewis (March 16, 1926 – August 20, 2017) was an American comedian, actor, singer, filmmaker and humanitarian. His humanitarian and philanthropic work focused on raising awareness for muscular dystrophy, serving as national chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) from 1956 to 2011. A feature of his work for MDA was the annual ‘Telethon’ which he hosted 45 times from its inception in 1966, through 2010.
A telethon is a televised fundraiser that lasts many hours or even days to raise money for a worthy cause and feature solicitations for pledges combined with variety show style entertainment.
The MDA Labor Day Telethon was an annual event held on the night before and throughout Labor Day in the United States to raise sponsors and donations. In the U.S., Labor Day occurs on the first Monday in September each year. The first MDA Telethon raised just over $1 million. By the end of Lewis’s 45th such event, in 2010, over $2.5 billion had been raised for MDA funds.
In 2011 Lewis and the MDA had a sudden, unexplained, acrimonious breakup. The MDA issued a curt announcement that Lewis would not appear on the 2011 show. The show was cut from 21.5 hours to just 6 and no longer widely syndicated. The 2012 edition dropped the name "telethon" and in 2013 became “Show of Strength” shown only for 2 hours on ABC, on Sunday, September 1, 2013. After the 2 hour 2014 show, it was announced on May 1, 2015 that the MDA would be discontinuing the annual event for good.