WLOX-TV Celebrates 12 Years With The Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon

Television has few traditions as strongly ingrained as the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon.

Adults who used to watch as kids now introduce their own children to the 21 1/2-hour, star-studded variety show that simultaneously entertains, informs and raises funds for the service and research programs of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

First broadcast over Labor Day weekend in 1966 by a lone TV station in New York City, the unique event starring popular comedian Jerry Lewis quickly caught the public's attention - and raised more than $1 million in pledges.

Now, 39 years later, the show will be broadcast by some 200 MDA "Love Network" stations, assisted by nearly a million volunteers across the country. This will be WLOX-TV's 12th year to air the telethon.

In 1998, the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon made history as the first telethon seen around the world via Internet simulcast, hosted by RealNetworks on MDA's Web site.

An "interactive" show long before the computer age popularized the term, the Telethon's drama comes from the ever-increasing fund-raising total posted on the tote board - by hand in 1966, now electronically.

Jerry's goal of raising "one dollar more" than the previous year's amount has been more than met almost every year, thanks to the generosity and compassion of the American public. Last year's record total was $60.5 million.

Quick Facts about the Telethon

  • The first Telethon was held in June 1955 at Carnegie Hall in New York. The 161/2-hour show raised $600,000 for MDA and was broadcast on DuMont station WABD.
  • The first-ever Telethon held on Labor Day weekend, broadcast in 1966 by just one station in New York City, was the first televised fund-raising event of its kind to raise more than $1 million in pledges.
  • Nearly one million volunteers across the country will be involved in the Telethon over this Labor Day weekend.
  • The 2004 Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon is the 39th annual show in the Labor Day weekend series. It will be broadcast on some 200 "Love Network" stations across the country and can be seen on the Internet.
  • This year's Telethon is dedicated to the memory of Mattie J.T. Stepanek , a renowned poet and the MDA National Goodwill Ambassador, who died in June.
  • The MDA Telethon has been held on Labor Day weekend since 1966.
  • Ed McMahon is the anchor of the Telethon, and 2004 will be his 37th Telethon.