MDA Matters July-August 2008

Article Highlights:
  • Abbey Umali's Travels
  • VIPs at MDA headquarters
  • Support Fill-the-Boot & Aisles of Smiles
  • Harley-Davidson engines roar
  • Partnership with Parade magazine
  • A Night Under the Stars
by Quest Staff on July 1, 2008 - 1:15pm

QUEST Vol. 15, No. 4

Featured in this article: Abbey Umali's travels ** VIPs at MDA headquarters ** Support Fill-the-Boot & Aisles of Smiles ** Harley-Davidson engines roar ** Partnership with Parade magazine ** A Night Under the Stars ** DIRECTV

Abbey's travels

MDA National Goodwill Ambassador Abbey Umali continues to travel the country meeting with MDA national sponsors and attending local and national events.

In February, Umali joined MDA National Youth Chairman Billy Gilman at ERA’s International Business Conference in Orlando. Gilman and Umali wowed 3,000 ERA brokers, agents, associates and employees at the opening session, then briefed attendees on MDA’s research progress.

Abbey Umali

Gilman, who sang at the ERA meeting for the fifth year, shared the stage with Umali, bringing the crowd to its feet with a duet of “What a Wonderful World.”

In March, Umali spoke at the National Child Care Association’s annual conference in Long Beach, Calif., where she addressed child care center owners and teachers from across the country. She also made several special appearances to help promote MDA’s Hop-a-Thon disability awareness and fundraising program in preschools and day care centers. (For information about bringing a Hop-a-Thon program to your preschool or elementary school, call your local MDA office at (800) 572-1717.

To learn more about Umali, check out MDA’s “Meet Abbey” booklet.

VIP sightings at MDA Headquarters

Several celebrities made visits to MDA’s national headquarters in Tucson, Ariz., this spring, for photo shoots and videotaping for MDA’s public health education and fundraising programs, and for the upcoming Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon.

VIPs included:

  • Jann Carl, Emmy-award-winning correspondent and weekend anchor for TV’s “Entertainment Tonight,” and a national Telethon co-host.
  • Norm Crosby, stalwart Telethon co-host and comedian widely known as the “Master of Malaprop.”
  • Billy Gilman, award-winning recording artist, MDA National Youth Chairman and Telethon co-host.
  • Nancy O’Dell, anchor for TV’s newsmagazine “Access Hollywood,” who has joined MDA’s efforts to find treatments and a cure for ALS. Her mother, Betty, 74, was diagnosed with ALS in November.
  • Tony Orlando, award-winning singer and MDA national vice president, who will host the Telethon’s New York City broadcast for the 11th consecutive year.
  • Harold Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, MDA’s largest national sponsor.
  • Alison Sweeney, host of NBC TV’s “The Biggest Loser” and a regular on the daytime drama “Days of our Lives.” She’s preparing for her second year as a Telethon co-host.
  • A host of MDA ambassadors, current and former, including: Jordan Balla, Sunland, Calif., the California Goodwill Ambassador; Jacob Conover, Tucson, Ariz., the Arizona Goodwill Ambassador; Morgan Fritz, St. Louis, the 2005 National Goodwill Ambassador; and Jacob Richard, Sugar Land, Texas, a goodwill ambassador for the Houston area.

The Telethon will be broadcast from the South Point Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.

Fill boots, help kids smile

The International Association of Fire Fighters’ Fill-the-Boot campaign for MDA is a time-honored summer fundraising tradition. Each year, hundreds of IAFF members throughout the country stand at intersections, malls and sporting events to fill fire fighters’ boots with donations for MDA.

The IAFF has been raising funds for MDA’s programs of research and services since 1954.

Also this summer, grocery stores and other retailers nationwide are transforming their stores into Aisles of Smiles to benefit Jerry’s Kids. Each purchase of specially priced products or Aisles of Smiles mobiles means an MDA contribution from participating manufacturers.

The campaign involves more than 120 retail chains and outlets around the country.

Be sure to help fill those boots, and smile in the aisles to benefit MDA programs in your area!

Engines roar for a cure

Revved up to help find a cure for muscular dystrophy, more than 1,900 motorcyclists took off May 3-4 in the 21st annual Harley-Davidson Ride for Life in Pennsylvania.

Each year, Harley-Davidson riders don pink T-shirts and donate $1,000 to decorate a wheelchair.

Motorcycle enthusiasts in six mid-Atlantic states rode through the south central Pennsylvania countryside during the two-day event, sponsored by the Eastern Harley-Davidson Dealers Association.

During one of the ride’s featured events, called Pink My Ride, dealerships and H.O.G. (Harley Owners Group) chapters each donated $1,000 to decorate a wheelchair.

Bradley Walker — the 2007 International Bluegrass Music Association Male Vocalist of the Year — entertained participants at the Rider Appreciation Party in Hershey, Pa. Walker, 29, is a native of Athens, Ala., and is affected by nemaline myopathy, one of the more than 40 muscle diseases covered in MDA’s program.

Harley-Davidson’s nationwide family of dealers, customers, employees, suppliers and H.O.G. chapters has been supporting MDA since 1980. To find out more about Harley-Davidson activities for MDA, visit

Stars sparkle for Jerry’s Kids

The spring gala “A Night Under the Stars” helped raise funds for MDA’s research and summer camp programs in May, drawing some 250 guests to The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif.

MDA Board member Timmi Masters chaired the 22nd annual Los Angeles event. The black-tie evening featured live and silent auctions, dinner and dancing, and was hosted by local MDA Telethon emcees Lisa Sigell and Dave Gonzales of KCAL-TV.

Brett Ellen, founder and president of American Financial Network in Calabasas, Calif., was honored at the gala with the 2008 Humanitarian Award for his support of MDA’s fundraising efforts.

The Karen Brown Courage Award was presented to Jordan Balla, 11, of Sunland, Calif. Balla, who has spinal muscular atrophy, serves as MDA’s Goodwill Amabassador for California. The SuperNova Award was given to Jim Hill, sports director for the Los Angeles CBS affiliate.

Augie & Luke DIRECT to you

Augie and Luke
Luke Christie and Augie Nieto

In April, DIRECTV’s “Hometown Heroes” series aired a segment featuring Augie Nieto and Luke Christie. The episode chronicled how Nieto, 50, was inspired by the 14-year-old from Due West, S.C., while Nieto was coming to terms with his 2005 ALS diagnosis.

The segment explores the duo’s friendship, and discusses the vital roles that both play in MDA’s fundraising and awareness efforts.

Nieto and his wife, Lynne, serve as co-chairpersons of MDA’s ALS Division, and are the backbone of Augie’s Quest — MDA’s ALS research fundraising initiative. Christie, who has type 2 spinal muscular atrophy, currently serves as Harley-Davidson MDA Goodwill Ambassador and will represent MDA at many events tied to the motor company’s 105th anniversary celebration this August.

To view the DIRECTV video, visit

A loyal partnership

Almost every Labor Day weekend for the past 23 years, Parade magazine’s cover has featured MDA in some way — and this year will be no exception.

Just in time for the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon, the 2008 Parade cover will feature Telethon cohost Tom Bergeron and MDA National Goodwill Ambassador Abbey Umali. Bergeron, host of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and “Dancing with the Stars,” serves as an MDA national vice president and will co-host the national broadcast for his fifth year.

Parade is nationally distributed each week via some 340 Sunday newspapers, and is read by more than 70 million people.

Parade Cover

“Having a cover story in Parade magazine is a monumental contribution to the Association,” once commented Robert Ross, MDA’s president & CEO who died in 2006. “You couldn’t buy it, it’s priceless.”

Parade’s steadfast support is thanks in large part to Parade Chairman and CEO Walter Anderson, an MDA national vice president, and Parade’s new editor, Janice Kaplan.

The first Labor Day Parade cover story appeared in 1985, featuring MDA National Chairman Jerry Lewis and then MDA National Goodwill Ambassador Ben Teraberry.

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