Jerry Lewis recently was honored with the Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 2008 Academy Awards. According to Academy President Sid Ganis, “Jerry is a legendary comedian who has not only brought laughter to millions around the world, but has also helped thousands upon thousands by raising funds and awareness for those suffering from muscular dystrophy.” Lewis began working with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) in the 1950s and has been the National Chairman since 1952. Overall he has helped raise over $2 billion for the cause.
Lewis’ leadership in MDA has helped scientists develop and improve treatments for neuromuscular disorders, and work toward finding new cures and treatments for this mysterious disease. This all began in 1956 when Lewis and Dean Martin hosted a television program that raised $600,000 for MDA. Lewis and Martin decided to do two more shows in 1957 and 1959 and began calling them “telethons.” Overall they raised $1,240,000 for children affiliated with MDA. During these telethons, Lewis used catchy phrases that have since been copyrighted by MDA, including: “Jerry’s Kids,” “Love Network,” “For the Right Reasons,” and “86 Days to Air.”
Lewis has contributed more to MDA than just the telethons. He has made over 100 public appearances for MDA and most believe there is not a day that Lewis does not do something for the organization. Not only has he been honored by the Academy but he has also received awards from the government of France. He has also received several prestigious awards in the United States including the Medal for Distinguished Public Service.
Lewis has devoted a majority of his lifetime to MDA, and he will be recognized forever as one of the major leaders who has fought against neuromuscular diseases. According to the MDA Web site, “as long as neuromuscular diseases continue to attack “Jerry’s Kids,” Jerry will be there to fight back.”
Nanda Sturm, Executive Director