Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon: Reach for the Stars

Delle Chatman of Chicago, writer, artist and church volunteer, is one of the people who'll be profiled on the national broadcast of the MDA Telethon on Labor Day weekend.
by Kathy Wechsler on September 1, 2005 - 12:14pm

QUEST Vol. 12, No. 5

Decked out in bright lights and fancy décor, the International Ballroom of The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., isn't awaiting the Golden Globe Awards. This Labor Day weekend, the star-studded event in question is the Jerry Lewis Telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. And the stars are the children and adults served by MDA.

Morgan Fritz and her mother Susan and father Ron
Returning Telethon guests include MDA National Goodwill Ambassador Morgan Fritz and family.
Reda and Chris Rice
Christopher and Reda Rice, co-chairpersons of MDA's ALS Division, will also appear on the Telethon this year as returning guests.
Luke Christie
Luke Christie
Stuart Nichols
Stuart Nichols
Cynthia Garrett, Norm Crosby, and Jann Carl
Cynthia Garrett, Norm Crosby and Jann Carl will again co-host MDA's national Labor Day broadcast.
Jerry Lewis and Ed McMahon
Telethon star Jerry Lewis and anchor Ed McMahon

Nothing warms Telethon viewers' hearts more than seeing the stories of children and adults affected by neuromuscular diseases and how much they appreciate MDA's efforts to wipe out these often life-threatening diseases. Put this together with valuable information and the nation's top entertainment, and you have the special recipe for the 40th annual MDA Telethon.

During past Telethons, star Jerry Lewis has been moved to tears because of the inspiration and emotion his kids, young and old, brought to the 21½-hour broadcast. This year is no different for MDA's National Chairman.

Old friends...

Back for her third national broadcast of the Telethon, this time as MDA National Goodwill Ambassador, the adorable 6-year-old Morgan Fritz, who has spinal muscular atrophy, will be accompanied by her parents, Ron and Susan.

Morgan and her family live in St. Peters, Mo., and travel the country, representing MDA and the people it serves at fund-raisers and sponsor events. Morgan's smiling face graces several MDA national promotional items. To learn more about this energetic young lady, see Quest's "Pretty in Pink" (January-February).

Christopher and Reda Rice of Houston will also make their third appearance on the national Telethon. This is their second year as co-chairpersons of MDA's ALS Division. In that capacity they help raise awareness of MD's leading role in putting an end to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Together with his wife, Chris, 40, who was found to have ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) in 2001, makes public appearances, gives interviews and records public service announcements for MDA.

... and new ones

Telethon viewers also will say hello to new friends who'll be profiled on the national broadcast.

They'll meet Luke Christie of Due West, S.C. Luke, 12, has type 2 spinal muscular atrophy and is the MDA Goodwill Ambassador for South Carolina. An active Boy Scout who loves to read, write and listen to music, Luke enjoys spending time with his two older brothers.

He's extremely ambitious and often thinks about the future, but also appreciates the opportunity to be a regular kid at MDA summer camp.

The Telethon will introduce Delle Chatman, a Chicago-area writer, artist, teacher and single mother. In 2002, Chatman, 54, received a diagnosis of dermatomyositis, which appeared in conjunction with her recently diagnosed ovarian cancer. At last year's local Telethon broadcast, Chatman and her daughter, Ramona Chatman Morris, 10, answered phones to help MDA.

An active member of her Catholic parish, Chatman has led several workshops and church retreats as well as written and directed a church play. Each summer she teaches two classes for a nonprofit writing program in Los Angeles. Chatman is director of the Media Arts Division at Northwestern University's National High School Institute.

It's also Stuart Nichols' first appearance on the national Telethon. Joining him in the profile will be his wife, Lisa, and their two adult children, Andrew and Whitney.

A global financial accounting manager for Exxon-Mobil in Houston, Nichols, 53, received a diagnosis of ALS in early 2004 and participates in MDA events to raise money for ALS research. Nichols was profiled on last year's regional Telethon and featured in "Staying in the Game" in the MDA/ALS Newsmagazine (June).

All-star lineup

Taking the stage with Lewis, MDA Board member Ed McMahon will return for his 38th year as the show's anchor. Jann Carl of "Entertainment Tonight," Cynthia Garrett from TVs "Life and Style," and comedian Norm Crosby will serve as co-hosts. Carl is an MDA director, while Garrett and Crosby are MDA national vice presidents.

Award-winning recording artist and MDA National Youth Chairman Billy Gilman will host the Telethon's youth segments and perform songs from his latest album, "Everything and More."

Starting at 9 p.m. EDT and running for 21½ hours, the Telethon will be broadcast nationwide and in Canada on 190MDA  "Love Network" stations. And your friends around the world can tune into the Telethon and make donations at MDA's Web site, www.mda.org.

Telethon webcast

In addition to watching the Telethon on an MDA Love Network station, you can see it online at www.mda.org, with streaming video provided by RealNetworks.

You can also make secure Telethon pledges, or donations to MDA year-round, via the Quick-Click Donation button on the MDA site's home page.

CITGO races for a cure

During this summer's last three Grand Am races, celebrated international race car driver Milka Duno drove her CITGO-sponsored SUPERGARD Pontiac sporting a new blue, red and white paint job and the MDA logo. CITGO, one of MDA's largest national corporate sponsors, created the aint job to raise awareness of the Telethon at races in Birmingham, Ala., Watkins Glen, N.Y., and Lexington, Ohio.

American Express again to boost Telethon donations

As its' done since 1998, MDA national sponsor American Express will offer something extra on this year's MDA Telethon. For each Telethon pledge made using an American Express card, the company will add an extra $5 donation to MDA.

Cardmembers may donate any amount to earn the additional contribution. Viewers may use their American Express cards to make secure Telethon donations for phone pledges or online pledges at www.mda.org.

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