MDA Telethon Donations Down, At $56.9 Million

September 3, 2014       The NonProfit Times      

The Muscular Dystrophy Association’s (MDA) annual Labor Day telethon raised $56.9 million dollars after the final donations came in yesterday, marking a slight decrease from last year’s total.

The “Share our Strength” telethon, which aired August 31 on ABC, brought in $59.5 million in 2013, the first year the telethon, made famous by comedian Jerry Lewis, aired exclusively on ABC networks. The event can also be streamed on MDA’s website.

“Both through the broadcast of our telethon and a record amount of online conversations, more Americans gained a compelling vision of the courage of our families overcoming difficult circumstances, as well as the generosity of our sponsors and supporters who help MDA fund the fight against muscle disease,” said Steven M. Derks, MDA President and Chief Executive Officer. “Our plan is to be great stewards of their contributions in our quest to create a world free of the harmful effects of muscle disease.”

As usual, funds from the telethon will be used to enable the families the Chicago-based MDA serves to continue to attend MDA clinics, keep sending kids to MDA summer camp, and help MDA-funded scientists to push forward in the search for treatments and cures.

Highlights of this year’s telethon included presentations from those affected by muscular dystrophy including two brothers, ages 3 and 5, and a 31-year old from Chicago who is battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) with the help from his family and girlfriend. There were also musical performances from country acts Rascal Flatts and LeAnn Rimes, plus Aloe Blacc, American Authors, Jason Derulo, and Kesha.

MDA is not the only nonprofit hosting a high-profile telethon. Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) will be broadcasting its 4th biennial fundraising event on September 5th on ABC and the three other major broadcast networks. The event’s lineup will include actors Robert Downey Jr., Steve Carrell, Kevin Bacon, and Anna Kendrick among many others.

The event is a program of the Los Angeles-based Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), which also partners with the American Association of Cancer Researchers.

Instead of the traditional phone bank staffed by celebrities, the September 5th telecast will feature a “digital lounge” on the set, hosted by Yahoo News Global Anchor Katie Couric. Stars in the digital lounge will reach out to viewers via phone, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms through an new campaign called “We’re Calling You” that  SU2C’s supporters can sign up for at werecallingyou.org

The last iteration of this event, in 2012, raised $81 million for cancer research.