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|MDA Show of Strength|
|Also known as||MDA Labor Day Telethon
Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon
The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon
|Created by||Jerry Lewis|
|Presented by||Jerry Lewis (1966-2010)
Nigel Lythgoe (2011)
Jann Carl (2011-present)
Alison Sweeney (2011-present)
Nancy O'Dell (2011-present)
|Narrated by||Johnny Olson (1966–1970)
Ed McMahon (1973–2008)
Shawn Parr (2009–present)
|Opening theme||"Smile" by Charlie Chaplin|
|Ending theme||"You'll Never Walk Alone" by Rodgers and Hammerstein (1966-2010)
"God Bless America" by Irving Berlin (2011)
"You've Got a Friend" by Carole King (2012)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||45|
|Production company(s)||MDA (National Segments)
local stations (Local Segments)
|Original channel||WNEW-TV (1966–1967)
|Picture format||National Segments:
480i (SDTV) (1966-2010)
720p/1080i (HDTV) (2011-present)
Varies by Station
|Original run||1966 – present|
The MDA Show of Strength is an annual televised benefit concert held each Labor Day Weekend in the United States to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). The program is the successor to the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon, an annual telethon that ran until 2010.
The history of MDA's telethon dates back to the 1950s, when the Jerry Lewis Thanksgiving Party for MDA raised funds for MDA's New York City area operations. The telethon has been held annually on Labor Day weekend since 1966, and has raised $2.45 billion dollars for MDA from its inception through 2009.
From 1966 to 2010, the telethon aired up to 21½ hours, starting on the Sunday evening preceding Labor Day and continuing until late Monday afternoon. MDA calls its network of participating stations the "Love Network". The show originated from Las Vegas for twenty-eight of the years it aired.
In 2011, it was seen on the Sunday evening before Labor Day for six hours; This edition, syndicated to approximately 160 television stations throughout the United States on Sunday, September 4, 2011, was also the first edition without Jerry Lewis as host. Nigel Lythgoe, Jann Carl, Alison Sweeney and Nancy O'Dell, all who were originally tapped to co-host the telethon with Lewis, shared hosting duties in the 2011 edition.
The 2012 edition, now renamed the MDA Show of Strength (thus no longer referring to itself as a telethon) aired Sunday, September 2, 2012, and was reduced to three hours for prime-time broadcast. The telethon was seen at 8PM ET/PT, 7PM CT/MT, and seen live in the Eastern and Central time zones.
Jerry Lewis began hosting telethons to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Associations of America (MDAA) in 1952 after a plea from a staff member who worked with Lewis and Dean Martin on The Colgate Comedy Hour. The benefit broadcasts first originated from a variety of locations in New York City in 1954, as local telethons seen exclusively on WABD or WABC-TV, who would donate their broadcast time for the event. Lewis would host several 4-hour shows in the New York area and elsewhere to benefit MDAA and promote the battle against muscular dystrophy during the later 1950s and early 1960s. By the mid-1960s, the success of those shows convinced MDAA to stage a telethon to support MDA's New York efforts, with Lewis agreeing to host the big event when approached by the organization.
According to the MDA's website, on December 28, 1951 Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis concluded their popular NBC show with a special appeal to support muscular dystrophy research. However, according to NewspaperARCHIVE.com, it was a radio show (not television), in various cities across USA. MDA's website additionally states that the second national appeal was during its January 4, 1952, network radio program.
MDA's website listed at least five early MDA telethons: Cleveland, Ohio — March 7, 1952, Atlanta, Georgia — June 6–7, 1952, Washington, D.C. — Dec. 26-27, 1952, Grand Rapids, Michigan — June 27–28, 1953 and Madison, Wisconsin — Sept. 12-13, 1953.
1966 thru the 1970s 
Organizers of the telethon chose Labor Day weekend to stage the event, as it was the only time frame made available to hold it. Many, however, expected the Labor Day broadcast would fail, as many people would be out of town and/or away from their TV sets during the holiday weekend; even New York City officials were skeptical that it would succeed, which made them reluctant to issue a fund-raising permit to MDA (though a permit was indeed granted at the urging of MDA's then-Executive Director Robert Ross).
The first Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon was held the weekend of September 4–5, 1966; it was staged at New York's Americana Hotel and carried by WNEW-TV. Proving the doubters wrong, the event was so successful that Lewis had to paint a "1" on the 6-digit tote board when the final tote reached $1,002,114. The show repeated its success in 1967, raising $1,126,846.
In 1968, after word of mouth spread of the Telethon's success and the celebrities appearing on the show, stations outside of New York City would pick up the Telethon broadcast, with WGR-TV in Buffalo, New York, WHEC-TV in Rochester, New York, WKBG-TV in Boston, and WTEV in New Bedford, Massachusetts joining WNEW-TV; with that, the family of stations that would later be billed as "The Love Network" was created. The network and the 1968 broadcast, however, was met with initial resistance by the Theater Authority, an organization that represented theatrical-related labor unions and whose permission was required before the talent and unions it represented could perform on the Love Network's broadcast without charge. MDA gained the Theater Authority's permission, and the Love Network's broadcast of the 1968 Telethon proceeded, with the additional stations helping raise the event total to $1,401,876 in donations.
Though the original intent was for the Love Network to carry the entire 1968 Telethon broadcast (breaking only for mandatory station identifications), WHEC-TV chose to break away for a few minutes every hour to show local volunteers in Rochester taking donation calls; as a result, WHEC-TV gained more proceeds than the other Love Network stations. With WHEC's move, the "local cutaway" was born: from that point forward, every Telethon broadcast granted local stations cutaway time (usually 5 or 10 minutes per hour) to allow local celebrities, volunteers, and sponsors to highlight fundraising efforts and MDA's involvement at the local level—with the intention to help spur local donations. The cutaways would become an integral part of every MDA Telethon broadcast, as well as for national telethons for other organizations.
By 1970, the MDA Telethon was seen nationwide on 64 stations, including the addition of Los Angeles and San Francisco stations to the Love Network roster (making the 1970 event the first coast-to-coast Telethon). Proceeds from the 1970 event totaled $5,093,385. The show continued to gain popularity and huge stars through the next 2 years, helped in part by the Theater Authority permanently lifting its ban on nationwide telethon performances by its members in 1970 (at MDA's appeal).
In 1973, with 150 "Love Network" stations in tow, the telethon moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, where it originated at the Sahara Hotel. That year, Lewis explained the mission of the MDA with his comment: "God goofed, and it's up to us to correct His mistakes." The 1973 Telethon was also when the event broke the $10 million mark for the first time (the final tote being $12,395,973). Ed McMahon made an on-air prediction that donations would surpass $10 million (more than the 7 digits the Solari tote board could accommodate); at the moment it did, he came on stage to tell Lewis, "I have a brush, and I have some paint..." and Lewis proceeded to paint a "1" on the board, repeating his 1966 stunt. An additional Solari number flipper would be added the next year, allowing a display of under $100 million.
In 1976, the "Love Network" grew to a peak of 213 stations, effectively making it America's fourth major TV network, if only for 21 1/2 hours. The 1976 telethon was also perhaps the most memorable one in the MDA's history, highlighted by the emotional reunion of Jerry and his former partner, Dean Martin, which was arranged by a frequent telethon guest, Frank Sinatra. It was the first time Martin and Lewis were seen together publicly since they separated their act in 1956.
During the telethon's Las Vegas years in the 1970s and 1980s, the show originated at the Sahara until 1982 when it moved to a bigger space at Caesars Palace. The show continued there until 1989 when it originated from the Cashman Center in Las Vegas – the only time it was transmitted from a non-hotel in Las Vegas. Lewis anchored the entire broadcast—which would eventually expand to 21½ hours—from its inception until 1983, when he rested for a few hours offstage, having undergone bypass surgery the year before. In 1990, the telethon originated from the Aquarius Theater in Los Angeles, then returned to Las Vegas and the Sahara Hotel until 1995 when it moved again to Southern California, to CBS Television City for nine years and then in 2005 to Beverly Hills. In 1998, MDA's all-star landmark show became the first to be broadcast on the Internet by RealNetworks on the association's website.
After the telethon, the site features a special highlights reel of the telethon for that year. Lewis still continued to host at least 16 hours of his telethon until 1999 (a year when he would suffer from various medical issues), where he would appear for the first five hours and the last five hours of the telecast, with an extended pre-recorded segment presented during late-night hours, and other celebrities filling in for Lewis and Ed McMahon during the morning hours. Co-hosts have included talk show host Larry King, comedians Norm Crosby, Elayne Boosler, Bob Zany, TV personalities Chad Everett, David Hartman, Casey Kasem, Jann Carl, Leeza Gibbons, John Tesh, veteran singers Tony Orlando, Julius LaRosa (who began co-hosting for Lewis in remote locations in 1975), Sammy Davis Jr., and many others.
The telethon returned to Las Vegas in 2006 at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa (which was the "South Coast" its first year there), a complex owned by a friend of Lewis, Michael Gaughan, and has remained there through the 2011 telethon. In 2009, the telethon extended its coverage to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, offering additional information and behind-the scenes material for followers of these services. Beginning in 2010, viewers could also text their pledges for an automatic $10 donation, aside from texting charges. Through 2010, the national segments of the telethon were not broadcast in high definition, though some stations broadcast their local segments in HD. The 2010 edition was syndicated to approximately 190 Love Network affiliates throughout the United States.
2011 cutback, overhaul and Lewis's departure 
On October 6, 2010, the MDA announced that the telethon would be trimmed back considerably, to six hours, beginning with the 2011 edition televised Sunday, September 4, 2011. This new version of the telethon, broadcast from 6 pm to 12 midnight local time, was in response to lagging donations, stations showing only part of the telethon or dropping it altogether, and the less-than-stellar talent in recent telethons—as well as Lewis, now in his mid-80s, devoting less and less time to appearing on-air due his age and health. The telethon, seen live in the Eastern Time Zone and tape-delayed in the rest of the country, has been revamped in order to attract more stations to the Love Network (which had shrunk from its peak of 213 stations in 1976 to 190 in 2010), as well as to attract more top celebrities and talent to the show, resulting in more viewers and donations. The other aspects of the telethon, such as corporate donations, stories from those who relied on the MDA's help, and local segments, remained, though local segments were restricted to two 7 to 8-minute segments every hour. As of June 2011, stars confirmed for the first short-form version included Lady Antebellum, Martina McBride and Darius Rucker, in pre-taped segments from the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. Other celebrities slated to appear included the judges of American Idol (Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler, and Randy Jackson), Celine Dion, Jon Secada, Tommy Emmanuel, Richie Sambora, Jimmy Webb, Michael Feinstein, Maureen McGovern, Jordin Sparks and Greyson Chance. The 2011 edition originated from its current home, the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas. The 2011 version was also the first version to broadcast the national segments in high definition; the broadcast of local segments in HD remained optional for the station.
On May 16, 2011, it was first announced by the MDA that the 2011 version of the telethon would be Lewis' last as host, and that he would continue his role as MDA's National Chairman, still appearing at the close of each telethon, to sing his signature closing song, "You'll Never Walk Alone". In a press conference with the Television Critics Association in late July 2011, Lewis denied that he ever said it would be his last telethon, would not elaborate on his role in the current telethon (stating that it was "none of your business"), and announced he would indicate his future plans the day after the telethon broadcast, citing "I will have plenty to say about what I think is important." At the same conference, Lewis criticized the reality television shows his telethon co-hosts were involved in—Lythgoe's American Idol, which Lewis said featured contestants who were "McDonald's Wipeouts"; and Sweeney's The Biggest Loser, a series which Lewis claims is about contestants "knocking their brains out trying to see how we beat the fat lady at 375 pounds, and in four months she's going to be 240. Who cares? It's ridiculous."
The MDA announced on August 3, 2011, that Lewis had "completed his run" as both host and national chairman, effective immediately, and that Lewis would not appear in the 2011 telethon. The wording of the release left it ambiguous whether he had been fired or if he had resigned. The MDA also confirmed that Lythgoe, O'Dell, Sweeney, and Carl, all slated to be co-hosts under Lewis, would share hosting duties; the MDA will leave the position of national chairman unfilled. Numerous celebrities came out in support of Lewis and opposed to his dismissal from the MDA shortly after it was announced; Lewis himself has been mostly silent about the issue, saying that the controversy is "very difficult to get into." On August 21, 2011, the Las Vegas Review-Journal released a report stating that the MDA reinstated Lewis as host of the telethon; however, Lewis's publicist denied that report. The following day, on August 22, 2011, the Review-Journal retracted the report, saying that Lewis has not been invited back to the telethon; the source close to Lewis said that the MDA reconciled with Lewis, not reinstated Lewis.
In addition, admission to the telethon by the general public was severely restricted, due to the cut in the length of the telethon, and the cut in the length of the local segments; in previous years, the telethon used the local segment time to swap audiences. Most of the attending audience members were representatives for sponsors and major donors.
Despite Jerry's departure and anything that took place backstage, the 2011 telethon's hosts paid tribute to Lewis with a one-minute video montage of Jerry hosting the telethon over the years. During the presentation, the hosts said that Lewis "retired" from his position as host.[dead link]
Following the telethon, Lythgoe commented that he was sorry that Lewis did not take part, but the show had to move on to ensure its survival, but has said that he is welcome to make an appearance on the telethon anytime, saying that the annual event was "his baby." Lythgoe also said that the orchestra had contingency plans in place in the event Jerry did show up, either live or pre-recorded, to sing his signature song, "You'll Never Walk Alone", but never showed up at the venue. Lewis' publicist Candy Cazau would not comment to the Associated Press about contingency plans, but has said earlier that Lewis did not agree to make any appearances on the show, following the debacle that led to his removal.[dead link] The song used at the close of the show was "God Bless America", sung by a large children's choir, all the hosts and performers from the show, following renditions of "America the Beautiful", "Strike Up the Band", and "The Stars and Stripes Forever", complete with the lyrics of "three cheers for the red, white, and blue" instead of John Phillip Sousa's original lyrics ("Hurrah for the flag of the free...").
While the 2011 edition of the telethon originated at the South Point, it was unknown at its conclusion if future editions would take place there, or anywhere in Las Vegas.
2012 edition: The "Show of Strength" 
On February 10, 2012, the MDA announced that the 2012 edition would be cut to three hours in length airing during primetime on Sunday, September 2, 2012, still syndicated to the Love Network stations. This marks a 50% reduction in airtime from the 2011 telethon which ran for six hours. The 2012 edition, renamed the MDA Show of Strength (moving away from its heritage as a telethon), was executive-produced by R. A. Clark, a notable producer and son of Dick Clark. The show was also seen first-run in the Atlantic, Eastern and Central time zones at 8PM ET and 7PM CT, with the special tape-delayed in the Western time zones at 8PM PT and 7PM MT. The venue segments and hosts varied, depending on the local networks airing it. The majority of the pre-produced performances were taped in Los Angeles and New York City, airing on various TV and cable channels in 150 markets around the United States. While there wasn't a traditional tote board tallying donations from local hosts in their respective cities, the overall event urged national phone, text and website pledges toward funding efforts to find treatments and cures for neuromuscular diseases.
Performers and guest appearance included Brandy, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Tim McGraw, Lou Ferrigno, Eva Simons, Max Adler, Paula Abdul, Khloé Kardashian, Alison Sweeney, Diana DeGarmo and B.o.B, among others. Additional guests appearing in pre-recorded segments from CBS Television City in Hollywood, taped August 7 to August 9, 2012, included OneRepublic, Brandy, The All American Rejects, Hot Chelle Rae, Karmin, will.i.am, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Silhouettes, Carole King, Reagan Imhoff, Pitbull, Gavin DeGraw and Alanis Morissette, among others. Portions with country artists were recorded at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.
The majority of the program was pre-recorded. Nancy O'Dell and Shawn Parr did introduce the majority of national segments. For the second straight year, the show closed with a different song. Carole King performed her song "You've Got A Friend" with a montage of the featured patients with muscular dystrophy in her background. The local segments were also mainly pre-recorded, and check presentations from companies who sponsor MDA were replaced by public service announcements from those companies, which, in previous years, were often part of the presentations.
Ed McMahon 
Ed McMahon was Lewis' long-time co-host. McMahon was involved with the telethon beginning in 1967 and co-hosted the show with Jerry from 1973 to 2008. Similar to his regular position as co-host of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, McMahon was Lewis' co-host, announcing the intros and outros of each segment, welcoming corporate and charitable sponsors with their donations, and of course, calling for a roll of a timpani drum for each million dollar mark passed on the tote board (Carson himself, a longtime friend of Lewis, surprised viewers by opening the 1970 telethon with a Tonight Show-style monologue while Lewis stood backstage—a role that Carson would repeat from 1971 and 1972, until the telethon moved to Las Vegas). McMahon, borrowing from Carson's prognosticating character "Carnac the Magnificent", also made predictions on what the final total of funds raised would be—a practice he abandoned after the 1982 telethon raised $2 million less than the previous year (which Lewis attributed to the severe 1980-82 recession that had gripped the U.S.). The trend of taking a break during the telethon was started in 1985 by McMahon. Much like his role with Carson, McMahon would co-host only when Lewis was hosting, with his duties as co-host filled in by others when Lewis was away. McMahon died June 23, 2009. The 2009 edition of the telethon paid tribute to McMahon with a special video tribute narrated by Lewis, which played during the first hour of the show. Following the tribute, Lewis introduced McMahon's wife, Pamela, who was in the audience. During the telethon for that year, Jann Carl assumed McMahon's duties during Lewis's hours on-air, while announcer and KKGO (Los Angeles) deejay Shawn Parr billboarded the start and end of each segment.
Previously, the telethon ran live for 21½ hours, ending at 6:30 p.m. ET. During the 2000s, the telethon would end its national portion shortly before 6 p.m. ET, with any remaining time going to stations. In recent years, more "Love Network" stations opted not to show the entire telethon, opting to join the show in progress after the 11 pm / 10 pm local news, or even on Labor Day morning, after the network morning shows.
In 2010, the last year of the full-length telethon, the telethon ran live for 20½ hours, from 9 p.m. ET to 5:30 p.m. ET, though actual start and end times varied by station. However, the MDA still considered 21½ hours as the official length of the telethon, turning over the final hour, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET to its affiliate stations for local wrap-ups (some stations would elect to end at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. ET instead (or even later), depending on the option of the station).
Effective September 4, 2011, the telethon was shortened to six hours, and broadcast from 6 p.m. to 12 midnight local time in each time zone, with stations in the Eastern and Atlantic Time Zones broadcasting the event live. However, as with the previous format, some stations scheduled the telethon as they saw fit—in the case of Chicago's WGN-TV, the 2011 telethon was scheduled from 6PM to 1AM ET (5PM to 12 Midnight CT), with the first hour produced locally. In addition, some network affiliates would delay the telethon to start later than 6PM, so that their evening newscasts and some of their network shows, such as CBS's 60 Minutes, would be seen as normally scheduled.
The telethon was again shortened in 2012, from six to three hours. Though intended to be aired at 8 p.m. in the Eastern Time Zone, at least one Eastern Time station, WMAZ-TV in Macon, Georgia, broadcast the Show of Strength from 9 p.m. to midnight.
Conflicts with sports 
Some stations broke from the coverage during the afternoon to show sports, such as CBS' coverage of the US Open, and subsequently beginning in 2007 NBC Sports covering the Deutsche Bank Championship. One such station is WGN-TV, which, since the 1970s, pre-empted the afternoon segment of the telethon for Chicago Cubs or Chicago White Sox baseball (except for the 1994 telethon, due to the baseball strike); incidentally, WGN-TV simulcasts the telethon (including the local telethon segments featuring WGN-TV personalities) nationally via its WGN America superstation feed.
In another case, some used a sister station affiliated with either The CW, MyNetworkTV or an independent to show the telethon start, and/or air the station's network programming while the telethon station continues to air the telethon; this was the case with CBS affiliate WDJT in Milwaukee and its independent sister station WMLW-CA, which in 2007 aired the first four hours of the telethon during CBS prime time, then aired U.S. Open coverage on Labor Day to allow WDJT to carry the telethon. In Pittsburgh, WPXI carried the telethon, while sending NBC's coverage of the Deutsche Bank Championship golf tournament to independent station WBGN-LP.
While the 2011 reformat resolved sports conflicts on Labor Day itself by ending before the actual holiday, the telethon was still subject to delays the night before in some areas. On September 4, 2011, right before 6PM, the Baltimore Grand Prix was scheduled on ABC, Deutsche Bank Championship golf on NBC, and US Open tennis on CBS. WGN carried a Pirates-Cubs game that was scheduled to end before 5:30PM ET, though it could have run over if extra innings, long innings or rain delays were involved.
In 2012, the Philadelphia Phillies game against the Atlanta Braves ran late on WPHL-TV in Philadelphia. The show was shown in its entirety immediately after the game ended. The show in Philadelphia started around 8:40PM.
Markets with no Love Network affiliate 
In some markets, no local station carries the telethon for various reasons. In some cases, the MDA would refuse to renew a contract with a station, leaving a market with no Love Network affiliate, if another station is not found in time. During the last year of the old telethon format, 2010, one example was KAME-TV in Reno, Nevada, which was dropped by the MDA that year, due to economic conditions and a decrease in pledges. Other notable markets with no Love Network affiliate in 2010 included Dothan, Alabama; Sioux City, Iowa; Yuma, Arizona; Bakersfield, California; Augusta, Georgia; Rockford, Illinois; Tupelo, Mississippi; Lincoln, Nebraska; Greensboro, Greenville and Wilmington, North Carolina; and the Tennessee Tri-Cities. Viewers in these markets could watch the telethon on WGN America or a station in a neighboring market, as well as online from MDA's site. In some areas, satellite and online are the only ways to view the telethon, as WGN America is not seen in all areas, and many cable systems carry only channels within their own market.
Station changes with new formats 
While the new telethon format in 2011 was designed to attract new stations and markets into the Love Network fold, the MDA still found itself dropping some stations, resulting in a net shrinkage of the network to just over 150 stations—its smallest size since 1973. In May 2011, the MDA dropped WABI-TV in Bangor, Maine from the Love Network after 30 years, citing potential economic costs resulting from the new format. The move will leave WGME-TV in Portland as the only Love Network affiliate for the state of Maine, which is not available on Time Warner Cable in most parts of the Bangor market. In addition to Bangor, stations in Mobile, Alabama / Pensacola, Florida; Santa Barbara, California; Panama City, Florida; Savannah, Georgia; Terre Haute, Indiana; Alpena and Traverse City, Michigan; Austin, Minnesota; Cape Girardeau, Missouri / Paducah, Kentucky; Utica, New York; San Angelo, Texas; Bluefield, Clarksburg and Wheeling, West Virginia; Cheyenne, Wyoming; and the entire states of Mississippi, North Dakota, and Vermont were also dropped from the Love Network fold, with no replacement. This is in addition to markets that did not carry the telethon in 2010, in which no stations were added in these areas in 2011.
The new format had also led to the telethon being moved to other stations, due to scheduling conflicts—longtime Love Network station KXAS-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas announced that they would no longer carry the telethon, due to the station being an NBC owned and operated station, and the fact that the telethon would be pre-empting NBC's Sunday night schedule. KTXA picked up the telethon and used KTVT personalities for local segments.
Other new Love Network affiliate changes include WITI replacing WDJT-TV in Milwaukee (thus returning to its original station that had aired the event); WNCF replacing WAKA in Montgomery, Alabama; KOCB replacing KWTV in Oklahoma City; KICU-TV replacing KTVU in San Francisco; KZJO replacing sister station KCPQ in Seattle, Washington; KXMN-LP replacing KSKN in Spokane, Washington; WNYF-CD replacing WWNY-TV in Watertown, New York; and KXXV replacing KWTX-TV in Waco, Texas (KBTX-TV in Bryan, however, still carried the telethon).
For the 2012 Show of Strength, the MDA dropped KODE-TV in Joplin, Missouri from the Love Network in May, stating that the market was too small for the event. In nearby Springfield, MO, KSPR broadcast the show after years of telethon coverage by KOLR. In addition, KTLA in Los Angeles replaced KCAL-TV. Meanwhile, in Seattle, KCPQ returned to the Love Network fold, replacing sister station KZJO, after that station carried the 2011 telethon.
Theme songs 
- Since the show's inception, its theme has been "Smile," a song from Charlie Chaplin's 1936 film, Modern Times.
- The telethon's toteboard theme song is an instrumental version of Burt Bacharach's "What the World Needs Now Is Love" (1965). It was used from 1970 through 1989 in different arrangements. At the show's 25th anniversary in 1990, it was not used, but returned for the 1991 edition. In 1992, the song was replaced by various orchestral fanfares to give the show a fresh effect, but it returned in 1996 at Lewis' request. The 2008 and 2009 versions used the song only for the final tote while a generic fanfare marked the others; the 2010 edition used a generic fanfare for all totes, including the final tote, with "What The World Needs Now Is Love" relegated to a medley of songs that played during the closing credits.
- The song Jerry Lewis perennially sang to conclude the event, "You'll Never Walk Alone," was originally written for the 1945 Broadway musical play, Carousel by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Lewis has given conflicting accounts on the air as to the origin of his use of the song. According to his account at the end of the 2007 telethon, the song was suggested to him in 1964 by a disabled child, walking with a cane; it was suggested to Jerry as a song that would specifically represent physically disabled children. In the 2010 broadcast, however, Lewis mentioned that he knew the song by heart, and was singing it that year for the "59th time", which would mean he had been singing it annually since he began hosting MDA telethons in 1952. Also, a recording of Lewis singing the song for a poster child was released as a cardboard record in 1959; that year, Rodgers and Hammerstein gave the MDA permission to use the song as the official theme for the organisation. When Lewis was removed as telethon host in 2011, the song was retired and the closing theme was changed to "God Bless America", a patriotic standard written by Irving Berlin.
Through the 1980s, there were also Canadian "Love Network" affiliates, whose telethon presentations there benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Canada (MDC), an organization unrelated to the American MDA, but used Lewis's US telethon for fund raising. The telethon also helped launch a new station—in Winnipeg, CKND-TV's first program on August 31, 1975 was the MDA telethon.
The final Canadian-based local broadcasts of the telethon aired from Ottawa in 2001. After this, MDC officials canceled the local broadcasts claiming cost savings. The Ottawa broadcasts were first hosted by CFRA radio's Ken Grant, who expressed concern that there would be fewer donations due to the loss of local broadcast features. Ottawa's telethon broadcasts were conducted for 31 years, most of which originated from the Skyline Hotel (later known as the Citadel Inn).
Today, no Canadian station airs the telethon, though it is available on cable and satellite from WGN-TV, as well as from border US stations, such as WMYD in Detroit/Windsor. As of 2011, Muscular Dystrophy Canada continued to operate pledge call centers during the telethon to collect Canadian donations.
Through 2010, the corporate donation segments of the telethon occasionally mentioned their Canadian donors, and WGN's telethon included a number for Canadians to call to make a pledge, 1-800-567-CURE, which connects to the pledge center in Toronto. In 2010, WGN's telecast also included a texting address for Canadian viewers to text in their pledges to MDC for an automatic $10 donation, aside from texting charges; this coincided with the MDA's launch of their own text-to-pledge service. Most border stations would also show either the local pledge number for the Canadian portion of their viewing area (as WMYD did), or the national Canadian number.
When the MDA reformatted the telethon in 2011, it no longer allowed its border Love Network affiliates to display any pledge numbers for Canadian viewers. However, the MDC still had a pledge line open, but only on Labour Day itself, with the MDC relying on other ways to get the message out.
A French-language telethon for MDA Canada was televised in Quebec concurrently with the American show in the late-1980s on the Radio-Québec network (now Télé-Québec); first televised in 1987, this telethon was hosted by entertainer Michel Louvain.
Puerto Rico 
In Puerto Rico, WKAQ-TV presents their own local telethon for MDA, Sentimiento Telemaratón, generally broadcast the first Sunday after Labor Day, usually from 11am to 9pm AST. As with the English version, the telethon features local and international celebrities, plus information on the organisation, the diseases and the people that rely on MDA's help. While WKAQ does not show the Labor Day telethon, it is considered by the MDA as part of the Love Network.
Hurricanes and other shortfalls 
Telethon tote board pledges for 2004 were down nearly 2%, to $59,398,915 (from $60,505,234 in 2003). Hurricane Frances had struck through most of the Florida peninsula late on September 5, during the telethon, significantly reducing pledges from the southeast United States. As many Florida stations devoted their air-time to coverage of Hurricane Frances, most Love Network stations in Florida cancelled the local segments of the telethon and either showed only parts of the telethon, moved the telethon to a digital subchannel, or did not show the telethon at all. On a Saturday afternoon in early December 2004, some Florida Love Network stations showed a special three-hour telethon, as a way to recoup some of the lost pledges. Telethon pledges were down another 7.5%, to $54,921,586 in 2005 due to significant Hurricane Katrina disaster relief efforts in New Orleans and throughout the region. That year, Jerry and his guests urged telethon viewers to also give donations to The Salvation Army and the American Red Cross.
The MDA itself donated $1 million to the Salvation Army for hurricane relief efforts. Prior to the hurricane-affected results of 2004 and 2005, the only other time the telethon raised less than the previous year was in 1982 ($28,400,000), during the recession of the early 1980s. One source said, however, that it was due to Jerry sitting out most of the telethon, due to his heart attack earlier (even though the heart attack did not occur until December of that year). However the next year – 1983, the telethon succeeded again in raising more money than its previous year and by 1984 was back to its record breaking pace. In 2006, the final tote board tally was $61,013,855 as five major regional stations knocked out during previous telecast came back online. It was the first time since 2003 that the telethon raised more money than the previous year. In 2007, the telethon again raised more than any previous year, closing the show with tote board pledges totaling $63,759,478.
On Labor Day in 2008 (September 1, 2008), Hurricane Gustav struck the coast of Louisiana. Some Love Network affiliates in the affected area cancelled the telethon for safety and informational purposes. Meanwhile, in New Orleans, the local telethon segments on WNOL-TV were also postponed, with WGNO, the local producer (as well as WNOL's co-owner) urging those wanting to give to do so through "the national telethon". Nationally, Jerry Lewis mentioned Hurricane Gustav and wished those in the affected area, especially his "kids", luck.
Neither he nor his guests made pleas for donations to The Salvation Army, contrary to a press release that said he would, although guest host Tom Bergeron did make a plea for donations to the Salvation Army during his hosting stint on the morning of September 1, as Gustav made landfall. However, with less than 10 minutes remaining in the 2008 telethon, the tote board update reflected an increase from the 2007 total, racking up $65,031,393 in donations, exceeding 2007's tote. Lewis had spoken about his concern at not making his goal of "one dollar more" due to economic conditions and Hurricane Gustav. When the tote board updated to show they'd gotten over 2007's total, he screamed three times, "I got it!" On Labor Day 2009 (September 7, 2009), the telethon only raised $60,481,231 in pledges, more than 2005, but lower than the final 2003 results. Lewis mentioned that the effects of the downfall of the American economy may have played a role in that year's shortfall, but was still amazed by the amount amassed nevertheless. In addition, no hurricanes threatened the United States around Labor Day weekend that year.
The 2010 telethon saw a further reduction by several million dollars. The final tote was $58,919,838. Lewis noted, "I'm heartened by the unique ability of Americans to help others in need, when they themselves are likely struggling financially."
Tote board 
- The telethon's tote boards varied from year to year; in the 1970s it was operated on a Solari-board, consisting of seven (later eight) number flippers using a white background and black numbers. Instead of using blank numbers, all flippers began with zeros. This tote board was discontinued after 1989 and replaced with a new tote board, first operated with the "eggcrate" display common on game shows, then later to an LCD-type "vane" display. By 2003, the tote board was changed to a screen display. The 2011 edition was the first not to use a tote board at all during the national segments, due to the show airing live only on most stations in Eastern Time, and on a tape delay in other time zones and on some Eastern Time stations.
- Elgin Watches was the sponsor of the telethon's toteboard as the "Official Timekeeper of the Telethon" in the late 1960s and early 1970s, at least during the telethon's New York years. From the mid-1970s to the early-1980s, Helbros was the toteboard sponsor. Since the early-1980s, the tote board had no dedicated sponsor, though some local stations continued to have a sponsor for their local tote boards.
Figures are from the final tote board number at the end of each telethon. For years 1967 on, increase or decrease is given compared to the previous year and to the previous record. As of 2011[update], the telethon has broken its previous record every year except 1982, 1983, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2011; 1983 and 2011's telethons improved over the previous year's totals without breaking the all-time record.
Through 2010, the final totes did not take into account any pledges that are made after the final tote is announced live—many stations would continue with their local segments afterward, with some stations delaying the final national tote until the very end of the telethon. As the 2011 telethon was not live outside of Eastern Time and could not keep a running national tote during the show, the final national tote for that year was not announced until the following day.
The publicly stated total counts only pledges and does not indicate the actual amount donated, which is published on the MDA's Form 990. In 2009, the telethon drew approximately $45,000,000 (three-fourths) of its pledges; in 2010, $48,000,000 (nearly five-sixths). However, despite publicly stating a higher pledge total for the short telethon in 2011, the actual amount raised by the telethon was much smaller, with only $30,683,816—slightly less than half—of the publicly stated total coming in, a steep drop-off from the last years under Lewis's stewardship.
No tote boards have been used since the reformat in 2011, although the 2011 edition announced a total after the special had aired. Those totals, however, included corporate sponsorships that had never been included in the tote board totals. That allowed MDA to claim the new format collected more than the old. Donations via phone, text and MDA's website were urged by local network affiliates.
|1966||$1,002,114||First modern telethon|||
|1968||$1,401,876||+24.41%||+24.41%||First year of the Love Network|||
|1970||$5,093,385||+149.78%||+149.78%||Love Network enters Los Angeles and San Francisco|||
|1973||$12,395,973||+34.73%||+34.73%||First telethon to originate from Las Vegas|||
|1976||$21,723,813||+15.13%||+15.13%||Jerry Lewis reunites with Dean Martin|||
|1977||$26,841,490||+23.56%||+23.56%||$26,841,419 or 490|
|1980||$31,103,787||+1.34%||+1.34%||Actors' strike||[unreliable source?]|
|1982||$28,415,339||-9.79%||-9.79%||Economic Recession|||
|1990||$44,172,186||+3.36%||+3.36%||Telethon moves to Los Angeles|||
|1991||$45,071,657||+2.04%||+2.04%||Return to Las Vegas|||
|1995||$47,827,221||+1.53%||+1.53%||Return to Los Angeles|||
|2004||$59,398,915||-1.83%||-1.83%||Florida Hurricanes|||
|2006||$61,013,855||+11.09%||+0.84%||Return to Las Vegas|||
|2009||$60,481,231||-7.52%||-7.52%||Ed McMahon's death; recession|||
|2010||$58,919,838||-2.58%||-9.40%||Final long-form telethon (21.5 hours); Lewis' final telethon as host|||
|2011||$61,491,393||+4.36%||-5.44%||First and only short-form telethon (6 hours); delayed broadcast by time zone; totals from this year onward include corporate donations|||
|2012||$58,706,015||-4.53%||-9.73%||3 hour, largely pre-recorded benefit concert|||
The MDA and Jerry Lewis have been criticized by disability rights activists for their tendency to paint disabled people as, "pitiable victims who want and need nothing more than a big charity to take care of or cure them." Critics argue that focusing the public's attention on medical cures to "normalize" disabled people fails to address issues like providing accessible buildings, transportation, employment opportunities and other civil rights for the disabled.
- Don Francisco, the host of Sábado Gigante, is MDA's spokesperson on behalf of Hispanics with neuromuscular diseases—he generally appears in the telethon in a pre-recorded message, appealing to Hispanics in Spanish to donate. Don Francisco is also known in his native Chile as host of that country's Teletón, for handicapped children.
- Game show announcer, Johnny Olson was the telethon's announcer for the first five years, from 1966 to 1970 before Ed McMahon took over the role in 1973, and held it until his death in 2009.
- 7 Up was the telethon's first corporate sponsor, in which they would raise money through special promotions and issue checks in installments with multiple stage appearances used as advertising to Jerry during the course of the telethon. 7 Up is also the longest corporate sponsor (under current owner Dr Pepper Snapple Group), supporting the telethon since 1974.
- Prior to 1974, sponsorship was generally limited to trade unions and civic organizations—the most durable being the International Association of Fire Fighters, who supported the MDA since 1954, and appeared on the telethon since 1966.
- The National Association of Letter Carriers was another labor organization long-associated with the MDA, with the group naming the MDA as its "official charity" in 1952. The union's first nationally coordinated campaign to raise funds for MDA came during Thanksgiving Week in 1953, when tens of thousands of letter carriers in more than 800 cities returned to their routes for a second time after completing their holiday-heavy mail deliveries. The all-volunteer effort was called "The Letter Carrier March for Muscular Dystrophy".
- Another notable sponsor was 7-Eleven, who was a sponsor from 1976 to the early-2000s. Early on, Jerry Lewis would appear in commercials urging 7-Eleven shoppers to "Keep The Change" for his Kids. During the late-1970s and early-1980s, Jerry also appeared in commercials for 7-Eleven, promoting its stores and products.
- In 1980, a strike by AFTRA and SAG prevented many guest stars from performing. Instead, they simply walked onstage, shook hands with Lewis, handed him a personal check, and encouraged viewers to make a donation.
- Jerry was also the host of the first edition of the French Téléthon in 1987, which benefits the muscular dystrophy charity in France, L'Association française contre les myopathies. Jerry also co-hosted the 1991 edition. The French MD telethon is generally televised at various intervals on the France Télévisions group of channels (France 2, France 3, France 4, France 5, France Ô and Outre-Mer 1ère) on the first weekend in December. The 2007 edition took in €96,228,136 (US$141,089,693) in pledges, down from its 2006 total of €101,472,581 (US$136,389,286). (The value in US dollars against Euros are as of the telethon's broadcast for that particular year.)
- Today, of the charter affiliates of the "Love Network", WHEC-TV and the present-day WGRZ and WLNE-TV still carry the telethon. WLNE's carriage was not continuous, however, as WPRI-TV carried the program for some years until WLNE picked up the telethon again in 1994.
- What is now WLVI-TV (the former WKBG) has since dropped the event, which has since moved to WCVB-TV.
- Today's WNYW (the former WNEW) dropped the telethon after 1986, which moved to WWOR-TV in 1987. Coincidentally, both WNYW and WWOR are now under the common ownership of the Fox Television Stations Group.
- "MDA's 'Love Network' has a rich, vital history," from Quest, 7/1/2005
- "Jerry Lewis is still going the distance", http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-0903-jerry-lewis-20100903,0,794457.story, Los Angeles Times, September 3, 2010, accessed September 3, 2010
- MDA: "Jerry Lewis Completes Run as MDA National Chairman", August 3, 2011.
- MDA: "MDA Labor Day Telethon Moves to Shorter Format", October 6, 2010.
- MDA: "MDA Labor Day Telethon 2011: Short, Snappy, Sensational!", July 1, 2011.
- MDA press release, via Zap2it: "You’ll Never Walk Alone: Jerry Lewis To Make His Final Telethon Appearance", May 16, 2011.
- MDA press release: "Top Country Music Acts Tape Grand Ole Opry Performances for MDA Labor Day Telethon", June 10, 2011.
- Zap2it: "Jerry Lewis out as MDA National Chairman", August 4, 2011.
- MDA Press Release: "MDA Names R.A. Clark as Executive Producer of 2012 Show", February 10, 2012.
- Per MDA Show of Strength website
- "How it all began?" from TheTelethonYears.com
- Baltimore Sun: "What we'll miss about the Jerry Lewis telethon", August 4, 2011.
- Las Vegas Sun: "In two swift paragraphs, Jerry Lewis’ run as MDA chairman and telethon host ends", August 3, 2011.
- MDA: "Still Going Strong: 44th Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon Airs This Labor Day Weekend", 8/27/2009.
- Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale): "Jerry Lewis telethon cut to 6 hours", October 6, 2010.
- Clarke, Norm (August 20, 2011). Dion, Lopez offer talent for telethon. Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved August 21, 2011.
- Ed Bark: "NBC5 (KXAS-TV) will be no-show for this year's notably shortened MDA telethon", June 20, 2011.
- Jerry Lewis tight-lipped on telethon role. Reuters. Retrieved July 31, 2011.
- St. Petersburg Times: "Jerry Lewis out as telethon host", page 1A, August 5, 2011.
- Kerby, Rob (August 6, 2011). Irked comedians, Forbes magazine agree Jerry Lewis deserves better. BeliefNet. Retrieved August 6, 2011.
- Clarke, Norm (August 21, 2011). MDA telethon reinstates Lewis. Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved August 21, 2011.
- "Rep: Jerry Lewis Not Reinstated as Telethon Host - Today's News: Our Take". TVGuide.com. 2011-08-21. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- Fox News: "Despite Reports to the Contrary, Jerry Lewis Will Not Return as MDA Telethon Host", August 22, 2011.
- Leach, Robin (September 1, 2011). Mystery surrounds Jerry Lewis’ absence from Sunday’s MDA Telethon. Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved September 3, 2011.
- Las Vegas Review-Journal "Public discouraged from attending MDA telethon", September 4, 2011.
- Orlando Sentinel: "MDA Telethon raises $61 million in 6 hours; did you miss Jerry Lewis?", September 5, 2011.
- America's Review: "Lythgoe: Lewis welcome on MDA telethon anytime", September 5, 2011.[dead link]
- "MDA Show of Strength: Behind the scenes | MDA Show of Strength | photoMojo | FOX11ONLINE.COM". Interactives.fox11online.com. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- "“Shotgun Tom” Kelly To Co-Host The MDA Show Of Strength on KTLA « K-EARTH 101". Kearth101.cbslocal.com. 2012-08-30. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- "Here Comes the MDA's Non-Jerry Lewis Non-Telethon". Businessweek. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- "MDA Show of Strength". MDA Show of Strength. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- Fox 4 Now Aug. 29, 2012 (2012-08-29). "Patrick Nolan & Emily Dishnow to host the annual MDA Show of Strength". Fox4now.com. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- "No Jerry Lewis in this year's taped MDA fundraiser –". Usatoday.com. 2012-01-09. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- 12:13 p.m. PDT, August 27, 2012 (2012-08-27). "MDA Show Of Strength Telethon". ktla.com. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- "The 2012 MDA Show Of Strength Telethon!! « Seattle Country Music Radio, News, Artists, Gossip – 94.1 KMPS". Kmps.cbslocal.com. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- "MDA Show Of Strength™ Features Star-studded Talent, Focuses On Families - Yahoo! News". News.yahoo.com. 2012-08-09. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- . "MDA Show of Strength". On-camera-audiences.com. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- "MDA 'Show of Strength" airs on NewsChannel 5". ksdk.com. 2012-03-23. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- Sunday (2012-02-09). "Luke Bryan Joins Carrie Underwood and Tim McGraw for "MDA Show of Strength" Sunday - Music News - ABC News Radio". Abcnewsradioonline.com. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- "Tune in FOX6 and watch the MDA Labor Day special | FOX6Now.com – Milwaukee News & weather from WITI Television FOX6". Fox6now.com. 2012-08-29. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- "News from The Associated Press". Hosted.ap.org. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- MDA Press Release: "Longtime MDA Telethon Anchor Ed McMahon Dies", 6/23/2009.
- CNN: "Ed McMahon dies at 86", 6/23/2009.
- MDA: "Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon Achieves $60.5 Million", 9/7/2009.
- Per TV schedule at zap2it.com for September 4, 2011.
- Chicago Sun Times: "Without Jerry Lewis, MDA telethon promises to be bland affair", September 2, 2011.
- Per TV schedule at zap2it.com for September 4, 2011; zip code 46805. In this case, WANE-TV Fort Wayne, Indiana showed the telethon from 8PM to 2AM ET, to make room for local news and 60 Minutes.
- Lynch Jones, Lorra (August 31, 2012). "MDA Telethon to Vary from Annual Tradition". 13WMAZ.com. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
- Owen, Rob (August 31, 2007). "WPXI gears up for telethon; WTAE debuts new set". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2007-09-04.
- Reno Gazette-Journal: "Reno loses telethon TV feed", September 4, 2010.
- MDA: Telethon affiliate list
- WABI: "MDA Telethon Dropped on TV5 - Part 1", May 18, 2011.
- Per Zap2it.com; zip code 04401.
- MDA: "2011 TELETHON LOVE NETWORK STATIONS"
- CBS DFW: "CBS 11 / TXA 21 at MDA Summer Camp Before Annual Telethon", June 24, 2011.
- Kennedy, Wally (August 29, 2012). "MDA Telethon won’t be shown in Joplin this year". The Joplin Globe. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
- WFMU's Internet Museum of Flexi / Cardboard / Oddity Records: "Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Fundraiser" record
- Dulmage, Bill (January 2007). "Television Station History: CKND". Canadian Communications Foundation. Retrieved 2007-09-02.
- "Ottawa dropped from Lewis telethon: End of 31-year Labor Day tradition marks change in format, 'better use of funds'". Ottawa Citizen. 23 August 2002. p. F1.
- "42nd Annual Jerry Lewis Labour Day Telethon for Muscular Dystrophy Canada (MDC)". Muscular Dystrophy Canada. 13 August 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-09-02.
- Muscular Dystrophy Canada: "46th Annual Telethon for Muscular Dystrophy Canada"
- Télé-Québec: Histoire (French)
- From TV listings at tv.elnuevodia.com
- MDA Puerto Rico: Sentimiento Telemaratón page (Spanish)
- "The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste", by Jane and Michael Stern (New York, Harpercollins, 1990)
- WGNO: "Jerry Lewis Local Telethon Postponned (sic) Due to Gustav", 8/29/2008
- KPRC: "Jerry Lewis Calls For Gustav Help", 8/31/2008
- NPR: "Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon Raises $58.9 Million", 9/6/2010
- Radical Software, Vol. 2 Issue 2 (1973)
- Friedman, Roger (September 1, 2012). Exclusive: without Jerry Lewis, MDA couldn't collect 50% of last year's pledges. Showbiz411.com. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
- firstname.lastname@example.org (2009-11-19). "Jerry Lewis MDA". Jerry Lewis Unauthorized Home Page. Archived from the original on 2009-10-26. Retrieved 2010-03-06.[unreliable source?]
- "How it all began? Show History". 2008-05-27. Retrieved 2010-03-06.[unreliable source?]
- "Telethon". BrainyHistory. Xplore, Inc.[specify]. Retrieved 2010-03-06. Note that this site may be unreliable: it claims 1966 telethon as "$15,000", and the site's direct publisher is operating anonymously behind a private registration.
- MDA Primetime Telethon Achieves $61.5 Million. News release. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
- Americans Put Their Strength Behind MDA to Fight Muscle Diseases. News release. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
- TheKidsAreAllRight documentary website about a former Jerry's Kid named Mike Ervin
- "The Nutty Profess-ion" article from Rabble News
- Teletón Chile: "OEA y Teletones Latinoamericanas se unen para ayudar a personas con discapacidad", August 11, 2012. (Spanish)
- Oh Thank Heaven! The Story of The Southland Corporation, by Allen Liles; The Southland Corporation, 1977.
- Communiqués de presse de l'AFM et rapports annuels (French)
- Radio-Info: "Jerry Lewis Telethon - 2009 Affiliate List", 9/6/2009.
- MDA Show of Strength official website
- Muscular Dystrophy Association's website
- MDA Spanish website (Spanish)
- MDA Puerto Rico website (Spanish)
- The Telethon Years (unofficial site)
- Photo Memories of WJKS (includes some local telethon pictures)
- French Téléthon website