Telethon 2006

Telethon anchor Ed McMahon and star Jerry Lewis are prepared for another Telethon success. MDA/2005
by Kathy Wechsler on September 1, 2006 - 3:00pm

QUEST Vol. 13, No. 5

The year was 1973. The Senate-Watergate hearings were in full swing, the Rolling Stones released “Goats Head Soup,” and the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon first hit Las Vegas on Labor Day.

Now, 33 years later, the 41st annual national show will revisit the entertainment capital of the world to benefit children and adults affected by neuromuscular diseases, while offering valuable information and top entertainment.

Broadcast live from the South Coast Hotel, this year’s Telethon is dedicated to MDA’s former president & CEO Robert Ross, who died in June.

Ross devoted more than 50 years of his life to MDA and its mission to find treatments and cures for people with muscular dystrophy and other muscle-wasting diseases.

It was Ross’ idea to hold the Telethon over Labor Day weekend, beginning in 1966 with one New York station. Over the years, it was his vision that made the Telethon a success.

“We’re going to make this year’s Telethon the most successful ever,” said MDA National Chairman and Telethon star Lewis. “And we’re going to do it for Bob.”

Norm Crosby and Jann Carl

Tom Bergeron

Luke Christie & Augie Nieto
Norm Crosby and Jann Carl join in again as co-hosts of the national broadcast. Tom Bergeron of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and “Dancing With the Stars” gears up for a more prominent role as a Telethon co-host. Luke Christie and Augie Nieto were interviewed and photographed in Los Angeles for a Parade magazine story that will run on Labor Day weekend.
South Coast Hotel Jonathan and Caeser Chacon Jacob Richard playing in his pool with his brother, Philip
The South Coast Hotel in Las Vegas is the home of the 2006 Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon. Jonathan and Caeser (left) Chacon take a stroll with Kim and Rudy Fuentes. Jacob Richard plays catch with his brother, Philip.

Full house

After a trip to the hospital in June following a mild heart attack and a touch of pneumonia, Lewis is in the pink again. He looks forward to another Telethon with a familiar cast of celebrities. MDA Board member Ed McMahon will return for his 39th year as Telethon anchor.

Co-hosts will include “Entertainment Tonight"’s Jann Carl; Tom Bergeron, host of “America’s Funniest Home Videos”; and comedians Norm Crosby and Bob Zany. Carl, Crosby and Bergeron are MDA national vice presidents.

Award-winning recording artist Billy Gilman, who is MDA’s National Youth Chairman, will host several segments and perform songs from his new album, “Billy Gilman,” which will be released the day after Labor Day.

Gilman has spent much of the last year focused on MDA, speaking and performing at fund-raisers and sponsor events. He also visited MDA summer camp in Canton, Mass., for the second time.

Four of kind

Besides Luke Christie and Augie Nieto, Telethon viewers will make some new friends, who will be featured in video profiles.

They’ll say hello to Jacob Richard of Sugar Land, Texas. This 9-year-old, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, loves to sing, dance and listen to music. He also enjoys reading, swimming and spending time with his older brothers, Andrew and Philip.

A third-grader at St. Laurence Catholic School in Sugar Land, Jacob serves as this year’s MDA Goodwill Ambassador for Houston. In 2003, he appeared on the Houston broadcast of the Telethon.

The Telethon will profile Caeser and Jonathan Chacon, teenage brothers with limb-girdle muscular dystrophy. Caeser, 16, and Jonathan, 14, live with their mother and stepfather, Kim and Rudy Fuentes, and younger brother, Mathew Chacon, in Tampa, Fla.

Caeser and Jonathan, who both use power wheelchairs, love to hang out with their friends, play video games and spend time with their family. Caeser is in the 10th grade at Tampa Bay Technical High School, and Jonathan is a ninth-grader at Arm-wood High School in Seffner.

Abbey Umali
Abbey Umali introduces her little friend.

Caeser, this year’s MDA Goodwill Ambassador for Florida, and his brother say they enjoy the fishing, food and girls at MDA summer camp. They appeared on the 2004 and 2005 Telethon broadcast in Tampa.

Viewers also will meet Abbey Umali of Redlands, Calif. This 7-year-old has Dejerine-Sottas disease and is ambulatory with braces. A second-grader at Loma Linda Academy, Abbey loves to swim, ride her bike, sing and play the piano.

Extremely active with MDA, she appeared on the 2004 and 2005 Los Angeles broadcasts of the Telethon. This year she’s attended golf tournaments, lock-ups, and walking events as California’s MDA Goodwill Ambassador. She also enjoyed her first year of MDA summer camp.

Ace in the hole

Turn to your “Love Network” station and get ready for 21½ hours of entertainment, information and emotion. The fun starts at 9 p.m. EDT. Your friends around the world can tune into the show online at, with streaming video provided by RealNetworks.

Luke Christie, goodwill ambassabor

Luke Christie

Thirteen-year-old Luke Christie of Due West, S.C., will once again be in the Telethon spotlight, this time serving as MDA’s National Goodwill Ambassador. He has type 2 spinal muscular atrophy and uses a power wheelchair.

Introduced to a national audience on the 2005 Telethon, Luke has done a phenomenal job representing MDA and the people it serves at media and spon-sor events. His image also appears in MDA national promotional materials. To learn more about this enthusiastic young man, see “The Christie Chronicle.”

In the eighth grade at Dixie High School in Due West, Luke is interested in be-coming a reporter. Another passion is the Boy Scouts, in which he’s a First Class Scout working on his personal management merit badge.

Augie Nieto, ALS division chairperson

Augie and Lynne Nieto

Augie and Lynne Nieto of Corona del Mar, Calif., co-chairpersons of MDA’s ALS Division, are slated to appear on the national Telethon. A giant of the fitness industry who received a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) in March 2005, Augie, 48, created Augie’s Quest, a campaign to raise funds for MDA’s ALS Division.

Nieto’s Bash for Augie’s Quest, held at the Las Vegas Hilton in March, raised an incredible $2.8 million for MDA’s ALS research program. The event drew a number of celebrities, including Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, the Grammy-award-winning Doobie Brothers and Bob Saget, comedian and actor.

Nieto is already planning the second Bash for Augie’s Quest, to be held in March in San Francisco.

The Nietos help raise awareness of MDA’s ALS program through public appearances, speaking engagements, media interviews and public service announcements.

American Express again to boost telethon donations

American Express, an MDA national sponsor, will once again offer something special to Telethon pledgers. 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

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