It used to be an annual tradition that the MDA Telethon would be aired on Labor Day. Recently, it was announced that the Telethon will not be aired anymore. As stated by MDA spokespersons, “the new realities of television viewing and philanthropic giving” make it the right time to pull the plug. There will be no broadcast this year.” The times surely are changing and people no longer sit around the television all day. I can also see that the telethon was getting outdated especially with the talent that was recruited and the style of the program. In the last few years, the telethon was rebranded as the MDA Show of Strength. It was a much shorter broadcast during primetime and modern talent was featured but it seems like it was not very successful in attaining valuable ratings. In a way it probably is better that they stopped airing the telethon because now donations will be more devoted to research.
However, I will definitely miss the telethon for a variety of reasons especially because I was on the show. I am personally afflicted with Duchene’s Muscular Dystrophy and have watched and participated in the telethon over the years. In the early years of being involved with MDA, I sometimes appeared on the local MDA Telethon in Philadelphia. The first time I was on the Telethon was a very special moment for me and my family. We were interviewed for a segment in the Telethon. My parents were answering basic questions about my form of Muscular Dystrophy. Then the interviewer asked me about my experiences at MDA camp. At this point my parents wanted me to imitate the logo of the Telethon, which featured the cartoonish face of Jerry Lewis.(Shown above.) In this logo, his mouth was slightly open and the bottom of his chin was jutting out. I was imitating it exactly like that hours before appearing on television and my parents found it hilarious. At first I felt nervous about doing it but I closed my eyes and just did it. Everyone was laughing at my imitation and apparently it must have brought in some donations because the phone bank started ringing off the hook immediately afterwards.
I was on the show a few more times briefly and it was fun while it lasted. I will also miss the important purpose of the telethon which was to raise money for those with Muscular Dystrophy. The show was sometimes dull but it was interesting to see the phone banks ringing and the tote board changing. Most of the donations came from companies and unions but I always thought it was amazing that everyday people were also supporting the cause directly with their own money. Also the stories that were showcased on the telethon helped people to understand what an MDA family goes through on a daily basis. I saw the telethon also as an educational opportunity for the public. Many people do not understand the struggles associated with the disorder and I believe that the telethon achieved in this aspect. I will definitely miss the MDA Telethon but I certainly understand that there are other ways to raise money especially through social media campaigns and events that are cost effective strategies in combating Muscular Dystrophy. Please donate to MDA at mda.org at any time to continue to support MDA and those living with this disorder.