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Jerry Lewis and the Labor Day Telethon for the MDA

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Jerry Lewis hosting the MDA telethon in 1975
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Jerry Lewis has been organizing and hosting a Labor Day telethon to help raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) since 1966.  Over the years, Jerry has helped raise over 2 billion dollars.  In fact, Jerry Lewis is one of the few fundraisers who actually brings in more money than pledged.

Over the years, Jerry Lewis has received numerous awards for his work with the MDA over the years. These include nominated for the Nobel Peace Price in 1977, a U.S. Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service in 1985, and the Governor’s Award from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2005 for his long-running telethon work.

The telethons are typically filled with a great many stars of stage, screen, television and music.  For instance, one frequent performer in the 1970’s and 1980’s was the late Frank Sinatra, who surprised Jerry Lewis by impromptu re-uniting him with his long-time partner Dean Martin in 1976, their first televised appearance together since the team broke up decades prior.

Trivia about the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon

  • Jerry Lewis has been MDA’s number-one volunteer for more than 50 years. Despite debilitating pulmonary fibrosis, severe back pain and a heart attack in recent years, he never missed a Telethon.
  • No one knows why Jerry Lewis chose to devote so much time to helping people with neuromuscular diseases. He feels it isn’t important why he’s involved. Rather, it’s important that he’s involved.
  • Jerry Lewis receives no pay for his tireless year-round work for MDA. Other celebrities who serve as Telethon co-hosts and performers receive no pay for their efforts either.
  • Certainly one of the most unforgettable moments occurred on the 1976 broadcast. Frank Sinatra brought Lewis’ estranged partner, Dean Martin, onstage for an impromptu reunion. The comedy duo had barely spoken for 20 years.
  • Jerry closed the Telethon with the theme song for “his kids,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.
  • The 2010 Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon is the 45th annual Labor Day show. It will be broadcast on 190 “Love Network” stations across the country and can be seen on the Internet at
  • Some 50 million viewers in North America watch the MDA Telethon each year.
  • 2011 was the first time that Jerry Lewis did not host the MDA Telethon

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