MDA Getting Back In The Telethon Game

The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) is planning to go back to its roots with new fertilizer, streaming a telethon the organization hopes will grow across all age groups.

MDA cancelled the legendary Labor Day Telethon in 2014. Host Jerry Lewis left the organization and thus the 2011 event was shortened from multi-day to six hours. It was shortened further and cancelled after a two-hour special in 2014.

MDA President & CEO Lynn O’Connor Vos said the Oct. 24 event on YouTube and numerous other social media platforms will be hosted by comedian Kevin Hart and renamed The MDA Kevin Hart Kids Telethon. Hart’s charity, Help From the Hart, seeks to help youth impacted by life-threatening diseases.

Hart will be joined in the main event by celebrity guests including Jack Black, Usain Bolt, Josh Gad, Michael B. Jordan, Eva Longoria, and Jillian Mercado, an actress and model who is disabled with muscular dystrophy.

The two-hour event will be “very focused on abilities” and looking forward, said O’Connor Vos, but it will be followed by a 90-minute special of then and now clips of telethons past. 

There is also a gaming component, which started Sept. 12. It has run on Twitch every Saturday until the final marathon stream called MDA Let’s Play For A Cure on Oct. 24. Each week featured top gaming influencers are showcased the most popular game titles including Fortnite, Fall Guys and Minecraft, said O’Connor Vos.

The new format and focus, the gaming and the older telethon clips are intended to reach a broader audience than the old show which attracted a much older crowd.

The impetus for the reboot, O’Connor Vos said, started with a conversation regarding fundraising during COVID-19. “You go back to your roots and our roots clearly was a telethon,” she said.

While some of the classic sponsors will be part of the night, such as the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), the title sponsor is Salesforce. 

“Streaming is king,” said O’Connor Vos in describing the new sponsors and program.