Actor, comedian, and MDA Telethon host Jerry Lewis died of natural causes on Sunday, August 20 at his home in Las Vegas.
As well as enjoying a glittering career in Hollywood, often as part of a double act with Dean Martin, Lewis is also famous for hosting the yearly telethon for muscular dystrophy (MD).
According to the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), Lewis worked with the organization for more than 50 years and served as an honorary national chairman. Through his telethons and other charitable events, the star raised billions of dollars which contributed towards many important research projects. His work with the organization will never be forgotten.
The MDA Telethon ran for 45 years and although it raised more than $2.5 billion for MD research, the event was not without opposition. Many felt the event made people pity those with disabilities such as muscular dystrophy, and others thought the language Lewis used when talking about those living with the condition was disrespectful and ignorant according to a report in the Washington Post.
However, Lewis had many fans from within the MD community who were thankful the star had chosen to help raise awareness of the condition and to help destigmatize disabilities.
Lewis’ telethon first began in New York in 1966 and the event raised $1 million for the MDA. The event was then broadcast nationwide and ran for 24 hours on Labor Day each year. Towards the end of Lewis’ reign as host of the telethon, which ended in 2010, there were many protests — largely coming from the MD community who felt the event did not reflect the changing times and attitudes of those living with disabilities. The event continued for another four years after Lewis retired as host.
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