MDA Labor Day Telethon 2011: Short, Snappy, Sensational!

Article Highlights:
  • The 2011 MDA Labor Day Telethon will be seen in prime time in all television markets, marking its switch from a 21½-hour show to a six-hour show.
  • Nearly 160 Love Network stations will air the 46th annual Telethon from 6 p.m. to midnight on September 4, 2011.
  • Video profiles will include: Aaron Bates (31, Orlando, Fla., spinal muscular atrophy); Raelyn Kanak (16, Tucson, Ariz., nemaline myopathy); Neel Singh Pannu (4, Sacramento, Calif., Duchenne MD); and Jayson Tibbets (17, Plymouth, Minn., Becker MD). 
  • Darius Rucker, Lady Antebellum and Martina McBride are among the talented entertainers to be featured on the show.
by Quest Staff on July 1, 2011 - 11:35am

QUEST Vol. 18, No. 3

The 46th annual MDA Labor Day Telethon is getting ready to squeeze 21½ hours of entertainment, awareness-building and fundraising into six prime-time hours on Sunday night, Sept. 4.

The shorter show, which is expected to draw more viewers in its prime-time slot, will be fast-paced and jam-packed with top-notch entertainment.

In addition to the shorter national broadcast, each hour of the local Telethon will feature two local segments of seven and eight minutes each.

Top talent and tweets

The prime-time slot already is attracting new talent, such as country music superstars Darius Rucker, Lady Antebellum and Martina McBride.

In addition, talented co-hosts Nancy O’Dell, Nigel Lythgoe, Jann Carl and Alison Sweeney will keep things hopping, joined by MDA National Goodwill Ambassador Abbey Umali, 12.

MDA’s social media will add a new dimension to the show with “tweets” and online posts from behind the scenes.

Aaron Bates
Aaron Bates
Neel Singh Pannu
Neel Singh Pannu
Raelyn Kanak
Raelyn Kanak
Jayson Tibbets
Jayson Tibbets

Watch for spontaneous video interviews with Telethon families and celebrities, and follow all the backstage Telethon action on MDA’s Facebook page and Twitter account. These extras will be posted on the MDA website.

Inspiring profiles

Four remarkable young people living with neuromuscular disease will be the subjects of video profiles.

Aaron Bates, 31, of Orlando, Fla., has spinal muscular atrophy. An attorney, Aaron also serves on a number of disability advisory boards, recently helping to pass a Florida state law making it easier for employed people with disabilities to hire personal care attendants. A member of MDA’s Task Force on Public Awareness, Aaron has a younger sister with SMA.

Neel Singh Pannu, 4, of Sacramento, Calif., has Duchenne muscular dystrophy. “Super Neel” can be shy at first, but quickly becomes quite the extrovert when he warms up. His parents, Kulwant and Kukhbir Pannu, are active MDA volunteers in the Sacramento area; Neel also has an older sister.

Raelyn Kanak, 16, of Tucson, Ariz., has nemaline myopathy, a disease that causes problems with muscle tone and contraction. An accomplished harpist nonetheless, Raelyn performs at weddings and other celebrations, in addition to being a high school student. She often participates in MDA activities, along with her parents Karen and Fran, and younger brother.

Jayson Tibbets, 17, of Plymouth, Minn., has Becker muscular dystrophy. A personable and compassionate young man, Jayson was the 2010 Minnesota MDA Goodwill Ambassador. The high school student enjoys sports, military history, volunteering for MDA and traveling with his parents, Jay and Lynn, and younger brother.

Get Discovered!

MDA’s own version of “American Idol” — Clear Channel’s Get Discovered! contest — again will highlight new musical talent.

Musicians may submit performance videos through July 22 by posting them to (search "MDA"). The top 10 acts will be chosen from these submissions and announced by Clear Channel on July 25.

Listeners then can vote for their favorites, and the top three acts will be announced Aug. 12. These groups will win a trip to Las Vegas to perform on the national Telethon broadcast.

New prime-time schedule

This fall, the Telethon will air in every time zone from 6 p.m. to midnight on Sunday, Sept. 4, broadcasting from the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas.

Approximately 160 “Love Network” stations will carry the show from coast to coast, and it will be seen around the world via

In the 46 years since it began, MDA’s signature event has meant help and hope for those affected by neuromuscular disease — and that’s one thing that will never change.

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