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Jerry Lewis MDA telethon raises $59.4 million

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

LOS ANGELES -- The Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon raised $59.4 million for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, but organizers said Monday that power outages and other disruptions from Hurricane Frances contributed to a decline over last year.

Donations totaled 1.8 percent less than last year's $60.5 million.

Television stations in the Florida cities of Jacksonville, Sarasota and Gainesville canceled broadcasts of the telethon completely. Other Florida stations showed only the national portions, preventing the broadcast of local segments during which most pledges are made.

Lewis, 78, was assisted during the 21 1/2 hour fund raiser by Ed McMahon, and the broadcast featured performances by Elton John, Oprah Winfrey, Ray Romano, Tony Orlando and others.

Lewis said the late child poet Mattie Stepanek almost helped the telethon reach its goal. Stepanek, whose inspirational verse made him a best-selling writer, died in June at age 13 from a rare form of muscular dystrophy.

The boy was an advocate for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. His mother, Jeni, and Lewis appealed to telethon viewers to make up for lost contributions from Florida.

"Even now, Mattie continues to perform miracles," Lewis said in a statement after the telethon. "Without the love and hope that Mattie inspired in millions of Americans, there's no way we would have come so close to reaching our goal in the face of such overwhelming odds."

Only one other telethon in the 1980s failed to surpass the previous year's total.

The 39th annual telethon, based in Los Angeles, was shown on nearly 200 TV stations nationwide.

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On the Net:

Muscular Dystrophy Association: http://www.mdausa.org


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