The Muscular Dystrophy Association and Jerry Lewis are done.

Open Letter to the MDA
Dear MDA,

I don't know if MDA decided to remove all vestiges of Jerry Lewis from the telethon, or if Jerry Lewis withdrew permission.

Whether MDA acted as a "heartless corporation" or Mr. Lewis withdrew his support for the telethon is irrelevant to me. In either case, I am appalled that MDA was unable to accommodate Mr. Lewis' demands or requirements for the telethon, no matter how seemingly ridiculous they may have been.

Mr. Lewis founded the telethon and made it the enormous financial success that it is. Were it not for the work of Jerry Lewis and the awareness raised by the telethon, it is likely I would not know the name of the MDA organization. Had Mr. Lewis not been involved with MDA, it is all but certain that MDA's effectiveness would have been reduced by billions of dollars' worth of expenditures, and hundreds of billions of dollars in international goodwill for MDA and MDA's cause.

I feel the telethon is not worthy of even watching this year.
I am so disappointed in you.

Ron Schnaper

MDA and Jerry Lewis have parted ways. The telethon's name has been shortened to The MDA Telethon and the telethon itself has been shortened to 6 hours. The telethon will be live only on the east coast of the United States, airing in each timezone from 6PM to Midnight on Sunday - the day BEFORE Labor Day. Perfect.

Jerry Lewis and The Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon has raised over (are you sitting?) two point five BILLION dollars for MDA. That's $2,500,000,000.00. That is one helluva big number. The $50,000,000 or $60,000,000 on the tote board was only half of the story. There was about as much generated in corporate sponsorships behind the scenes that was never included there.

Dozens of stations have already dropped the telethon; "approximately 160" will be airing it this year compared with 190 last year. This year alone I'd guess MDA will lose 10s of millions of dollars because of this. Perhaps we'll find out in a couple of weeks, if you can trust the accounting to be the same as in previous years, where corporate donations were not counted on the "tote board."

In October 2010, MDA announced the new shortened telethon approach. In May Jerry announced that while he would remain as National Chairman for the MDA, he would no longer serve as the telethon's host, and this would be the last year he would appear. A couple of weeks ago, MDA quietly announced that Jerry would not be appearing on the telethon, and he would not be replaced as National Chairman, and a few days ago their Telethon webpage was scrubbed of all mentions of Jerry Lewis. That's when I wrote and sent this letter to them.

I have no clue as to what precipitated these events, and perhaps they were justified by MDA if Jerry has lost all of his marbles AND withdrew his permission to use his name. Excepting that, my opinion on the matter is stated in my letter.
Respond to this topic here on  
I knew that Mr. Lewis was stepping down as chair and that he had said this would be his last telethon. I had assumed that it was because he was getting older (85, I believe!) and has some serious health issues. It is hard to imagine why the MDA would remove all mention of Mr. Lewis's stunning contributions to their fundraising efforts.
MDA claims to have raised $61 million, besting last year's $59. Do you believe this?

MDA ought to be ashamed of themselves. At least they should be required to provide an honest, consistent accounting for the funds raised. This year they had fewer than 160 stations; last year they had more than 190. Boston's total alone was more than $600,000 less than last year. I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS TOTAL AT ALL. My SWAG is donations from the public during the telethon were down at least 30% and I hope that SOMEBODY - ANYBODY- can get a real accounting from them.

Boston's production was as professional as ever. But the phones were just not ringing at all, and after the first 1/2 hour when they announced the tote of over $300,000 it was clear they were adding in all the large checks; I assume the local stations have always done this in their little local totes. If not the donations were down by much more than 50%. There was almost no time at all for the local interest stories that generate the sympathy and the cash when people see their normally invisible neighbors stricken with these afflictions.

WGN's local segments were horrible. They used a stop action/constant motion technique during calls, and kept a lying 5 minute timer on the screen at all times implying that "you'd better call now or you're gonna miss out on getting your pledge doubled by the union", but they kept resetting the clock over and over again. How disgusting.

Jerry's kids deserve better.
Another year, another cut back in the "telethon." It is now no longer called a telethon they are calling it a "show of strength" and have further cut it back to 3 hours, broadcast from 8PM to 11PM locally.

How sad.

Jerry Lewis meantime, hasn't said a disparaging word, and the MDA at least acknowledges him for his prior contributions on their telethon page.

I think I'll go look up their IRS form 990s and see if they filed for the time period covering last year's event yet; maybe it will be eye opening if they have.
Ahh well, I didn't even have to go read the forms for myself, someone else already did:
At the end of its first abbreviated, Jerry Lewis-less Labor Day telethon last year, the Muscular Dystrophy Association was able to boast it received more than $61 million in pledges – up 4 percent from the prior year when Lewis was before the camera.

However, a review of MDA's federal 990 tax forms reveal the charity collected only $31 million from those would-be donors.

A shortfall is not unusual, but the 2011 collection was off dramatically in comparison to recent years. MDA received $58 million in pledges at the end of Lewis' final MDA telethon in 2011 and $48 million came in. In 2009, the first telethon after the recession, the shortfall was about $15 million with only $45 million of the $60 million in pledges collected.

50% of the pledges came in? Bull. As I guessed at this time last year they were probably fabricated pledges. The $31 million collected was indeed about 30%-50% less than the previous year (actually 36%).

I am surprised at the level of non-payment from previous years as well. Perhaps there were some shenanigans going on then as well. (And I wonder if people realize that making a pledge to a charity is a binding contract? Not that most charities would go after donors reneging on a pledge. Kind of a tricky situation there for a lot of reasons.)

Back in the day they used to brag about getting 104% of pledges. The letter carriers delivered the pledge envelopes the next day (Tuesday). Nowadays I would have guessed that most pledges were done by credit cards and text messages. How do you collect only 50% of pledges?

It's a bygone institution. I hope that the activists who thought that the patients were being exploited are pleased with their results.
We are watching the telethon now...BUT...I thought Jerry Lewis was very sick? In fact, I was wondering if he as still alive? He was the man behind the telethon. He was IT! His ending song was what everyone was watching for. Walk through a storm...The logo of the telethon and of Jerry himself!

I always gave money to the MD association. But in today's world, there are so many other diseases, cancers, etc, that need money for research and hopefully a cure. Unless there is a celebrity endorsing it, these other diseases don't get the publicity they deserve....But back to MD...Miss you Jerry!
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