Residents asked to participate in annual fund-raising telethon |

Residents asked to participate in annual fund-raising telethon

Christina M. Currie

Thousands of Americans suffer from one of several neuromuscular diseases classified as muscular dystrophy, and one organization is the frontrunner in providing services and funding research the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) is touted as the source for news and information on 40 classes of muscular dystrophy. In 1996, MDA allocated nearly $19.5 million for research programs and $40.7 million for services. At least five people in Craig and the surrounding area and more than 1,500 people across Colorado have received services from MDA.

The funding for the program comes from personal and corporate donations. MDA accepts no funds from the federal government or grants.

The bulk of the fund-raising occurs during an annual 21 1/2-hour telethon hosted for the past 34 years by Jerry Lewis. This year the telethon is Sunday and Monday broadcast by CBS Television City in Hollywood. The telethon reaches more than 75 million viewers in the United States and Canada. The goal this year is to exceed the 1998 telethon total of $51.5 million. The broadcast will feature a handful of celebrity performances including Cher, Whitney Houston, Tom Petty, LeAnn Rimes, Kevin Sorbo, Tina Turner and Shania Twain. It will begin at 10 p.m. Sunday and run until 7:30 p.m. Monday on KWGN Channel 2 in Denver.

MDA was formed in 1950 when a group of parents whose children had muscular dystrophy realized that little was being done to combat the disease.

The first fund-raising telethon was in 1966, hosted by Jerry Lewis, and viewed on one channel. It raised $1 million in pledges.

MDA works in small communities to combat neuromuscular disease through basic and applied scientific investigation, local comprehensive medical services and clinical care and widespread professional and public health education. MDA operates 230 hospital-affiliated clinics and supports nearly 400 research projects around the world.