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Listen to Coronavirus Patient Zero

Jerry’s Kids

Forty one years. That is quite a long time. And that is how long Jerry Lewis has been going on television every single Labor Day to conduct the annual telethon to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. This phenomenal fund raising effort has set a high standard for achievement and has changed our view of Jerry Lewis from that of just a talented entertainer, actor and comic to one of the great philanthropists of our time. But if the “Jerry Lewis telethon” as it has come to be called, were only an annual TV show where big stars come on around the clock for a couple of days to raise money for research to find a cure for muscular dystrophy, that alone would be a wonderful thing. But this Labor Day telethon has taken on a much larger meaning and role in American life to the extent that it has become one of the seminal nationwide community service events of the calendar year and arguably the largest national coordinated community service event of all time.

The event we see on television is only the forward front of a full scale nationwide campaign that sweeps across the country each year. It is one of the most ambitious and well organized community service efforts of all time because during the weeks leading up to the big telecast, literally thousands of community service projects will be held in every community in the nation, all with the goal of making a good sized contribution to “Jerry’s kids.” The variety of ways that people across the nation find to raise funds for this phenomenal telethon are truly amazing. This one cause has tapped the incredible creativity and willingness of people to get out there and work to try to cure a disease that is so awful for children. Some of the ways people have raised money include… * Firefighters commonly flood the intersections collecting funds in their boots.

* Youth groups put on car washes in every convenience store in town. It is impossible not to have a clean car on the weeks leading up to the Labor Day telethon. * Churches hold bake sales to generate funds for Jerry’s kids. * College fraternities have slave auctions to reach their financial goals. * Businesses will have employees save up their change all year and dump in a big bucket to be taken to the bank to be counted and donated to Jerry’s kids. * Restaurants will have a round up campaign to help patrons find a painless way to give. These many events that are held I public buildings, schools, churches, and businesses almost everywhere throughout the country, has a multi faceted effect. Obviously the first outcome is an incredible flood of money that is raised to battle this disease. But there is something else less obvious that happens when such a large amount of people take the time to leave their homes and get out to do something totally dedicated to community service and helping those who cannot help themselves. There is an enthusiasm, a momentum and a sense of excitement that sweeps the country each labor day as institutions, organizations or businesses try to top their last years effort and outdo themselves to give more to Jerry’s kids.

It is truly one of the finest examples of community service tapping into the power of people’s desire to help and responding to an outstanding leader that we have in Jerry Lewis. This one weekend raises millions every year to keep battling this dread disease. Not too bad for a vaudeville comedian. PPPPP 720 .


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