Jerry Lewis: A Champion of Awareness


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The Jerry Lewis Telethon was a staple over Labour Day weekend for many years, and raising billions of dollars, and awareness for neuromuscular disorders from all across North America. For many of these  years,  local call centres were set up across Canada, and provided local content for viewers in Canada. It was a huge undertaking for everyone involved, but it was always a highlight of the year. In 2010, Lewis hosted his last Telethon, though the show still continues as the ‘MDA Show of Strength.’

Later this month, on February 28th, Jerry Lewis will be presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from Hollywood’s union publicists.Theaward celebrates Lewis’s large body of work in the entertainment industry, as well as his storied work with Muscular Dystrophy Canada, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and Jerry’s Kids.

Below is a press release that was published on August 30, 1974, at the peak of the Telethon popularity, announcing that there will be more Canadian pledge centres than previous years:

Six Canadian Cities Host Pledge Centres for Jerry Lewis Telethon

TORONTO: Canadians watching the Jerry Lewis Telethon to raise money to fight muscular dystrophy on Labour Day this year will be able to telephone pledge centres in six Canadian cities. This is an increase of two since last year and is up from two pledge centres in 1972.

In operation for the full length of the Telethon, the centres will be manned by more than 800 volunteers from 10:30 p.m. Sunday September 1 until 6:30 p.m. Monday, September 2.

The pledge centres will be located as follows: For viewers of WGR-TV, in Hamilton, where the toll free number will be 800-263-9944. For viewers of WWNY-TV (Watertown,) in Ottawa, where the toll free number will be 613-238-2811.

For viewers of WWNY-TV, in Kingston, Ontario, the toll free number will be 613-549-3300. For viewers of WWNY-TV, in Brockville, Ontario, the toll free number will be 613-342-8721.

The two new pledge centres will be reached as follows: for Vancouver area viewers of KSTW-TV, dial 604-433-3211. For Winnipeg area viewers of KCND, dial 204-755-0221. Both numbers will be toll free.

All money pledged by Canadians to fight muscular dystrophy will remain in Canada to help finance Canadian research projects and to provide more patient services.

Muscular dystrophy is a disease that in more than 50 per cent of all cases afflicts only boys, first crippling them and then shortening their lives to an average of just 20 years. The Muscular Dystrophy Association of Canada spends its money on trying to find a cure for the terrible illness and to continue its services to patients.

The Jerry Lewis Telethon will originate from the Space Centre at the Hotel Sahara in Las Vegas and will be carried by 172 television stations. More than 120 celebrities have already signed to appear on the Show which will include live pickups from Nashville and New York.

Jerry Lewis says he expects that by show time, more than 150 stars will agree to appear.

Among those who are scheduled to join Jerry Lewis and anchorman Ed McMahon in Las Vegas are Anna Maria Alberghetti, Jack Benny, John Davidson, Fats Domino, Chad Everett, Totie Fields, the Mickey Finn Show, David Hartman, Joey Hetherton, Arte Johnson, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Michel LeGrand, Ida Lupino, Johnny Mathis, Jan Murray, Jim Nabors, Louise Nettleton, Wayne Newton, George Segal, Susan Strasberg, Mel Tormé, Jerry Vale and Dionne Warwicke.

The Nashville segment of the Telethon will be hosted by Johnny Cash. His guests include the Nashville Brass, Bobby Goldsboro, Dolly Parton and Charlie Rich.

The New York Show will be hosted by Dorothy Collins. Among those scheduled to appear with her are Muhammad Ali, Sammy Cahn, Godfrey Cambridge, Carol Channing, the Electric Company, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Richie Havens, Helen Hayes, Aliza Kashi, B.B. King, La Lupe, Julius LaRosa, Kay Medford, Soupy Sales and Enzo Stuarti.

Behind the scenes at telethon locations throughout Canada and the United States, over 100,000 volunteers will run more than 1,000 pledge centres.


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