WAKA CBS 8 hosts 44th Annual Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon

MDA telephone volunteers at the WAKA studio - Photo by Marc Parker
MDA telephone volunteers at the WAKA studio - Photo by Marc Parker

Montgomery, AL – The first Labor Day in the United States was celebrated on September 5, 1882. In 1966, the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon premiered, changing forever the meaning of Labor Day in the hearts and minds of Americans.

Muscular Dystrophy Association Chairman Jerry Lewis is once again acting as Master of Ceremonies for the 44th annual Telethon.

This year’s twenty-one and a half hour broadcast began Sunday, September 6, at 8 PM CDT live from the South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa on Las Vegas Boulevard and continues through to Monday, September 7, at 5:30 PM CDT.

Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Tony Orlando, Charo, Wynonna, Train, Terry Fator, George Wallace, Lee Greenwood, Joshua Bell, and Three Dog Night are a few of the acts slated to perform for the benefit of Jerry’s Kids.

The show’s primary purpose is to raise financial support and awareness for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

The Telethon is the single most important fundraising event of the year for MDA. Funds raised help the Association carry on its fight against more than 40 neuromuscular diseases, including a worldwide program of basic and applied research, a nationwide network of comprehensive medical and support services, and extensive professional and public education.

For 13 years WAKA CBS 8 Montgomery/Selma has participated in the MDA “Love Network”; a localized portion of the Telethon that allows the network’s 180 stations to solicit donations from their local viewing area.

Donald Barron’s wife Pat suffers from Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy (MMD), the most common form in adults. The name refers to a symptom, myotonia-prolonged spasm or stiffening of muscles after use.

While waiting in the lobby of WAKA prior to Sunday night’s Telethon, Barron, a retired Montgomery firefighter, described Pat’s disease and the headway MDA has made in fighting it.

“We have been married for 37 years and Pat has had it the whole time. It affects her heart, eyes and speech,” he said. “I take Pat about every six months to Birmingham to a neuromuscular doctor. MDA has made progress and has found the gene that causes each disease and each year they are closer to finding a cure.”

“Pat now takes a medication (that wasn’t available at the onset) that prevents the muscles from going into spasms – doesn’t stop them, but slows the progress and anytime you can slow the progress, it is good.”

Hayden Fielder and his grandfather Mark Williams - Photo by Marc Parker
Hayden Fielder and his grandfather Mark Williams - Photo by Marc Parker

Mark Williams of Millbrook, and his grandson Hayden Fielder, a bright-eyed three-year-old with an infectious smile, were waiting in the WAKA studio. Fielder is the son of Ronnie and Stephanie Fielder of Prattville. Williams spoke briefly about his grandchild’s condition.

“Hayden has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. MDA has helped a lot with his speech therapy, physical therapy, and breathing treatments for asthma,” he said. “Hayden is still walking, but he’s not able to run.”

Telephone volunteer Betty Snowden is the grandmother of Ty Taylor (Taylor is the son of Mike and Tammy Taylor of Holtville). Taylor’s family was well represented with his cousins and great aunt also helping out for MDA.

Snowden explained that even though her grandson struggles with MD his outlook on life is good.

“Ty has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. He just turned twelve and is the youngest of three boys. The other two boys are fine,” she said. “Ty is completely in a wheelchair now and doesn’t use his service dog anymore, but he was able to keep him (a big collie named Teddy) as a pet.”

“Ty always has a smile on his face and the neighborhood kids love him to death.”

Chris Bailey, one of the MDA telethon anchors at WAKA - Photo by Marc Parker
Chris Bailey, one of the MDA telethon anchors at WAKA - Photo by Marc Parker

WAKA senior meteorologist Chris Bailey has hosted the fundraiser for more than a decade and recalled meeting Lewis and other MDA celebrities in California in anticipation of his station’s first Telethon.

“I was the guinea pig. My news director sent me out to Hollywood, California, where they would have all of the MCs from across the country and they’d meet with Jerry and all of the other MDA people,” he said. “I met Jan Carl and Ed McMahon and even got to dance with Charo! It was a really good experience and I’m glad I got to do that.”

Glenn Halbrooks and Stephanie Hicks will join Bailey as co-hosts.

To give to the MDA, please call 1-800-631-0665 or (334) 260-0489. For more information or to donate online, go to www.mda.org.

Article by Marc Parker

© 2009 Our Prattville. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the express written consent of the publisher.

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