America Makes a Muscle for Jerry's Kids

Telethon 2010 pulls out all the stops in a winning show

Photos, clockwise, from top left: Terry Fator; Ace Young, Nigel Lythgoe and David Archuleta; John Pinette; Charo; Carrot Top; Telethon 2010 total; Jerry Lewis; can-can dancers from Vegas! The Show; Nancy O'Dell with Lynne, Augie, Austin and Lindsay Nieto; Calvin Ray Johnson and Brandon Barash; and Jann Carl with Abbey Umali
Article Highlights:
  • For the first time in the history of the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, the show was opened by a child, MDA National Goodwill Ambassador Abbey Umali.
  • The Telethon garnered $58.9 million in contributions and pledges for MDA's research and services programs.
  • Telethon hosts, performers, sponsors and other guests popularized MDA's new "Make a Muscle, Make a Difference" awareness campaign.
  • In addition to first-rate enterntainment, viewers also learned about MDA's research developments, and met several families affected by muscular dystrophy and ALS who benefit from the public's year-round support.
by Quest Staff on October 1, 2010 - 3:02pm

QUEST Vol. 17, No. 4

From the moment the 2010 Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon began, the spotlight was on Jerry’s Kids.

For the first time ever, the Telethon was opened by a child, MDA National Goodwill Ambassador Abbey Umali. Backed by a dynamic new Telethon set, 11-year-old Abbey began with a warm welcome and an enthusiastic appeal for viewers to donate — and the phones lit up.

By the end of the 21½-hour extravaganza, $58.9 million had been raised for MDA’s research and services programs. Abbey, who has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and who would later steal the show singing “Ordinary Miracle,” raised $20,555 herself by reading 50 books in a read-a-thon.

Jerry Lewis was clearly moved by the outpouring of generosity, breaking into tears as he sang his signature final song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” The 84-year-old Lewis said he knew that, in good times and bad — and even during hurricanes, tornados, floods and earthquakes — the American people would come through for his kids.

“I’m heartened by the unique ability of Americans to help others in need, when they themselves are likely struggling financially,” Lewis said.

Hosts, performers, sponsors and even puppets took turns flexing their biceps as they popularized MDA’s new “Make a Muscle, Make a Difference” awareness campaign.

Lewis was joined onstage by a team of talented co-hosts: actor Brandon Barash; actor and comedian Richard Belzer; award-winning television personality Jann Carl; singer Billy Gilman; Nigel Lythgoe, executive producer of “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance”; entertainment reporter and TV host Nancy O’Dell; announcer Shawn Parr; comedian John Pinette; actress and TV host Alison Sweeney; and singer/songwriter Ace Young.

Singer Tony Orlando hosted the broadcast in New York, and Olympians Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci co-hosted the Chicago broadcast. The live show was interspersed with prerecorded video segments — hosted by MDA celebrity ambassadors such as “Incredible Hulk” Lou Ferrigno and “Twilight” movie star Booboo Stewart — that highlighted MDA-funded research, as well as individuals and families served by the Association.

Entertainers appearing on the show included David Archuleta, Charo, Taylor Dane, Michael Feinstein, Enrique Iglesias, Calvin Ray Johnson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Barry Manilow, Maureen McGovern, Niko, the Oak Ridge Boys, John Ondrasik of the group Five for Fighting, OneRepublic and WAR.

New to the national stage were the four winners of the Get Discovered! talent contest, sponsored by ClearChannel Communications and Last Perfect Thing of Asbury Park, N.J.; Hollywood Burnout of Des Moines, Iowa; Billy Dawson of Nashville, Tenn.; and Beau Davidson, also of Nashville.

Viewers also were treated to the Las Vegas productions “Viva Elvis by Cirque du Soleil,” “Jersey Boys” and “Vegas! The Show;” and to Broadway segments from “Memphis,” “Rock of Ages” and “Million Dollar Quartet.” Cast members from TV’s “Glee,” as well as ventriloquist Terry Fator and comedians Carrot Top, John Pinette, Norm Crosby and George Wallace also performed.

MDA National Youth Chairman Luke Christie, 17, of Due West, S.C., appeared on the show, as did Lauren and Claire Gibbs, 13- and 12-year-old sisters from Roeland Park, Kan., who have spinal muscular atrophy; Zack Walters, 8, from Imperial, Mo., who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy; and Tommy Roberts, an artist from Baltimore who has Becker muscular dystrophy. Augie Nieto, a fitness entrepreneur from California who has ALS, and his wife Lynne, were joined onstage by two of their four adult children. The Nietos co-chair MDA’s ALS Division and head MDA’s Augie’s Quest ALS research fundraising initiative.

Representatives of MDA’s national sponsors took their well-deserved turn in the spotlight to present checks representing donations collected throughout the year. These sponsors include: A&P, Acosta, Bally Total Fitness, Burger King, CITGO Petroleum Corp., ClubCorp, Convenience Store Industry, 7-Eleven, DECA, 7UP and Dr Pepper Snapple Group, ERA Real Estate, Harley-Davidson Motor Company, the International Association of Fire Fighters, Kappa Alpha Order, Lowe’s Home Improvement, the National Association of Letter Carriers, Safeway, SUPERVALU, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon of North America.

For the fifth year, the Telethon originated from the beautiful South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa in Las Vegas, reaching some 40 million viewers by way of MDA’s Telethon network of some 170 “Love Network” stations, as well as cable throughout the United States and Canada. The world saw the Telethon at, courtesy of RealNetworks.

“MDA is fortunate indeed” said Gerald Weinberg, MDA President & CEO and Telethon executive producer, “to have the support of so many celebrity friends, high-powered sponsors, television and cable stations, and — most importantly — a caring public.”

More online

To see Telethon photos and videos of performances and backstage interviews, go to MDA’s website,, and YouTube,

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