The Muscular Dystrophy Association’s nationally broadcast telethon, one of America’s longest-standing and beloved fundraising and entertainment events, will return this Labor Day weekend with a new broadcast home: the ABC Television Network.
WBUP, ABC 10, will air the two-hour MDA Show of Strength Telethon, along with ABC stations across the country, on Sunday at 9:00 p.m. /8:00 p.m. central. As in the past, the entertainment event will raise funds and awareness to support MDA’s mission to help children and adults affected by progressive and often fatal muscle diseases.
“This is a remarkably hopeful time for MDA and our mission to find new treatments and cures as we set our sights on pursuing muscle health,” said MDA President and CEO Steven M. Derks. “We’re delighted to partner with ABC. Broadcasting our show nationwide and on prime-time TV provides a critically important way to tell our story of progress in fighting muscle disease, while recognizing and engaging new supporters.”
This is the first time in MDA’s 48-year history of doing annual telethons that it will broadcast on a single television network. Previously, it partnered with an ad-hoc lineup of network affiliates in markets across the U.S. In recent years the majority of the stations have been ABC affiliates, which makes the new exclusive agreement with ABC a natural fit.
MDA is in the process of securing artists for this year’s telethon and all performers generously donate their time and talent to help make the event a success. The MDA telethon also will feature compelling stories of survival and hope profiling children and adults affected by muscle disease.
R.A. (RAC) Clark, longtime executive producer of the Academy of Country Music Awards, served as the MDA telethon’s executive producer in 2012 and will return this year. Clark has extensive producing credits on all major networks, including ABC.
In addition to funds contributed by the public, substantial support also comes from MDA’s family of national sponsors, whose work throughout the year on behalf of MDA will be recognized on the telethon. Among the sponsors: International Association of Fire Fighters, CITGO Petroleum Corp., Safeway, Lowe’s, Harley-Davidson, Jiffy Lube International, National Association of Letter Carriers, 7-Eleven, Dr Pepper Snapple Group/7UP, Acosta and Burger King.
At the community level, MDA is planning telethon viewing parties with hundreds of local groups to rally support for the more than 1 million Americans it helps with lifesaving support and services. MDA also is planning a comprehensive digital and social media campaign to drive online fundraising and engage supporters in new ways.
Over the decades, funds raised by MDA telethons also have contributed to the organization’s worldwide research program. Today, through current clinical trials, there is growing excitement that new lifesaving treatments and discoveries are on the horizon for many of the disorders MDA is dedicated to defeating, including Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
“Individuals with neuromuscular diseases are living longer, stronger lives thanks to the advances we’ve made over the years — particularly in the last decade — thanks in large part to past MDA supporters,” said MDA Chairman of the Board R. Rodney Howell, M.D. “We’re redoubling our efforts to find and fund new discoveries that will save lives.”
MDA’s first Labor Day weekend telethon was broadcast in 1966 on a single New York station and has become the most successful fundraising event in the history of television. The show, with help from a legion of top celebrities and entertainers, has raised millions each year to provide life-enhancing support and services for the families MDA serves.
The telethon has consistently enjoyed robust support from thousands of the biggest stars in show business. However, the real stars on the broadcast have always been the MDA families who have graciously agreed to open their homes and hearts to America and tell their stories of strength.