By Wally Kennedy
JOPLIN, Mo. —
The annual Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon that for years featured Jerry Lewis will not be broadcast this year in Joplin. The program was a staple of local television coverage for decades over the Labor Day weekend.
Local programming, shown on KODE-TV, the ABC affiliate in Joplin, has been broadcast from Cycle Connection in Joplin for the past 12 years.
Nancy Hutson, owner of Cycle Connection and a longtime supporter of the MDA benefit, said local organizers of the telethon were notified in May by the national association that a telethon would not be held in Joplin this year.
“They are going to hold one in Springfield, but we were told the Joplin market is just too small,” she said.
Hutson stressed that local MDA supporters may contribute at firefighter boot blocks this weekend in Carthage, Webb City and Neosho, among other places. Carl Junction is not planning on holding a boot block. The annual MDA Ride for Life, one of the major local fundraisers for the organization, was held in July.
“This is the money that funds our clinic with Mercy Health System and helps us provide the services the local families need,” Hutson said. “These boot blocks also were a big part of the telethon.”
Before it was held at Cycle Connection, the telethon had been held at the former John Q. Hammons Trade Center. Before that, it was held at the KODE studios.
“What’s happening now is that there are so many other things to watch on television on so many more channels over the Labor Day weekend that we are finding it incredibly difficult to get people to call in,” Hutson said.
“It’s much different now than in the 1950s when this thing started and there were only three options for watching television. The times change, but the needs don’t change.”
The amount of money that has been raised locally during the telethon is well into the millions of dollars, Hutson said. In 1987, the tote board had a goal of $135,000. Last year, that goal was $600,000.
The telethon dates to the 1950s, when the Jerry Lewis Thanksgiving Party for MDA raised funds for the association’s New York City area operations. The Labor Day weekend show has originated from Las Vegas for 28 of the 46 years it has aired.
Calls to KODE and to the national Muscular Dystrophy Association were not returned.
THE JERRY LEWIS MDA LABOR DAY TELETHON has been held annually since 1966. The telethon had raised $2.45 billion through 2009, according to figures provided by the Muscular Dystrophy Association.