Jerry Lewis raised a record $65 million for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in his annual Labor Day telethon, a benefit that also made a pitch for those affected by the Hurricane Gustav.
This year’s 22-hour telethon added a special plea for MDA-registered families forced to evacuate their homes as the hurricane made landfall Monday in Louisiana. The storm affected nearly 5,000 MDA families in need of services in their new location, according to the organization.
Lewis also urged viewers to contribute to the Salvation Army’s emergency disaster services.
The 2008 haul for the 43rd annual fundraising blitz was $1.2 million more than last year’s total.
Lewis said he was prepared not to exceed the 2007 number because of the sluggish economy.
“Each year I tell myself, This has got to be it. There s no way we can do better. Then, the following year, I’m astounded to see that generosity driven by love and compassion has a greater capacity than I thought possible,” Lewis said. “I am awed and humbled by this response.”
The freewheeling 82-year-old showman co-hosted the telethon from the South Point. Longtime participant Ed McMahon, Tony Orlando and others shared the hosting duties. Celine Dion, 3 Doors Down, Kid Rock and Reba McEntire performed.
Along with the annual telethon, the benefit included an online auction, selling travel packages, electronics, sports memorabilia and other items. The auction ends Thursday.
MDA is a nonprofit working to defeat muscular dystrophy and 40 related diseases through research.ON THE WEB
Muscular Dystrophy Association