It's That Time Again!

Telethon 2007 promises a spectacular show

by Quest Staff on September 1, 2007 - 10:09am

QUEST Vol. 14, No. 5

"Back in Vegas!" was MDA National Chairman Jerry Lewis' elated cry last year when the MDA Labor Day Telethon returned to its earlier broadcast site in the "Entertainment Capital of the World."

Now, once again, the legendary show will reach out to millions of viewers around the world from the ballroom of the dazzling South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa.

This is the 42nd Labor Day Telethon with Jerry Lewis at the helm, and his friend Ed McMahon isn't far behind, with 40 Telethons under his belt as the show's anchor.

The dynamic duo are masters at putting on a show that ranges from madcap hilarity to the serious business of acquainting and reacquainting viewers with the story of MDA's battle against muscle-wasting diseases - and the need to support that battle.

A familiar contingent of talented co-hosts rejoins the show this year. They'll introduce scores of top entertainers, interview families served by MDA and welcome representatives from MDA's national sponsors who will appear on the broadcast to reaffirm their long-standing support for the Association.

Jann Carl of the television entertainment news show "Entertainment Tonight," and Tom Bergeron, host of "Dancing with the Stars," will lead off, with support from funnymen Bob Zany and Norm Crosby.

Giving them a hand will be young award-winning recording artist Billy Gilman. In addition to co-hosting, Gilman will perform songs from several of his top albums. New this year is co-host Alison Sweeney, who plays one of daytime television's most "popular" villains, Sami Brady, on "Days of Our Lives."

And there's much more:

Augie & Lynne Nieto, ALS Division Co-Chairs

Nieto Family

After Augie Nieto learned in 2005 that he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), he and his wife Lynne were selected co-chairs of MDA’s ALS Division, with the expectation they would spread the word of MDA’s battle against the devastating disease and encourage added ALS research efforts.

The Nietos not only surpassed all expectations, they set new standards, spearheading MDA’s Augie’s Quest, an initiative dedicated to aggressive, fast-track ALS research. The initiative has raised millions of dollars, including $2.1 million at the Black & Blue Bash gala in San Francisco in March.  Among the projects these funds support is MDA’s largest single ALS research undertaking — a three-year, $36 million drug discovery project through the ALS Therapy Development Institute.

The Nietos hail from Corona del Mar, Calif.

Welcome aboard, Chase

Banking industry giant Chase Card Services, the credit card division of JPMorgan Chase & Co., is a new and welcome national sponsor of the Telethon.

For every contribution — in any amount — that Telethon supporters make using a Chase credit card, the company will add an extra $5 donation to MDA, up to a maximum of $150,000. Chase has more than 140 million credit cards issued worldwide.

Chase cardholders can make secure Telethon donations by phone or online.

Luke Christie, MDA National Goodwill Ambassador

Luke and Jerry Lewis - Cash Game

For Luke Christie, being in the Telethon spotlight is becoming a regular occurrence — and that fits the outgoing 14-year-old's persona perfectly.

Now in his second year as MDA’s National Goodwill Ambassador, Luke, his parents and two brothers from Due West, S.C., have been criss-crossing the country spreading MDA’s lifegiving messages.

Luke, who has type 2 spinal muscular atrophy, says he’d like to become a journalist, a novelist or a pastor — or perhaps all three. He’s now working his way through ninth grade (he’s an honor student), as well as a variety of Boy Scout merit badges, and his eyes light up and the words spill out eagerly when he assumes his official ambassador role.

Unforgettable family profiles

The 2007 cast of special Telethon guests appearing live or on video includes a vivacious young man who's just discovered the thrills of power soccer. Nine-year-old Josh France of Graham, Wash., has been the MDA Washington State Goodwill Ambassador for two years in a row, and it's easy to see why. He's a bundle of energy.

Josh, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, enjoys reading and playing Xbox, StarWars, Pokemon and Gameboy. He spends lots of time with his sister Raye and brothers Emile and Samuel, who also has DMD.

Tina Forbes, 61, is a package of grace and enthusiasm. Retired from commercial airline reservations, she’s a frequent volunteer at her church, and loves visiting with her two daughters and granddaughter Arianna at her home in Houston.

Forbes, who has myasthenia gravis, is a regular presence at MDA fund-raising events and an inspirational speaker who often refers to her first-hand experiences with a neuromuscular disease.

“Composed beyond her years” is one description of 11-year-old Makenna Sewell of Forest Grove, Ore. This spirited and personable young lady with the contagious smile enjoys writing and art.

Makenna has spinal muscular atrophy. She personifies the spirit of MDA during her regular participation in events like Stride and Ride, Fill-the-Boot, Lock-Ups and Shamrocks luncheons. Her parents and younger brother Grayson also get to share the limelight.

People who see Scott Stafne on camping trips with his family are sometimes surprised to learn that the active 34-year-old from Minneapolis has ALS.

There’s no question of his vitality and vigor, however. Easy-going and articulate, Scott loves spending time with his wife Kristen and 2-year-old daughter Eva. His hobbies include cinematography, movies and documentaries, and he’s regularly on hand for MDA fund raisers.

Down memory lane

Whatever happened to some of those National Goodwill Ambassadors who appeared on the Telethon years ago?

Earlier this year, MDA visited and chatted with two of those old-time friends, Nick and Aubrey Olson, who were co-ambassadors in 1998 and 1999, and now are young adults.

During the show, viewers will get a nostalgic “then and now” look at how the years have passed for these cherished members of the MDA family.

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