The biggest impact he had on me was the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon. Every Labor Day, our family would make a point to watch the nearly 24-hour event and every hour when they tallied we were on the edge of our seats! Applause erupted at the final tally knowing he'd broken the previous year's record.
|Jerry with dear friends Dean Martin & Frank Sinatra|
Jerry gave it his all. I remember the exhaustion in his eyes in the hours before it ended. I remember that he never gave up, as tired as he was, until the very final moment it was all over when he'd sing "You'll Never Walk Alone." He cried, I cried, we all cried. Jerry Lewis gave me hope, he made me believe in the goodness of people. To a child, that is everything.
A high-ranking exec with MDA once said that the reason the telethon was changed from 21.5 hours to just 6 was that the American audience had changed. “A 21.5-hour show doesn’t fit in a 140-character world," she said.
Maybe it doesn't fit, but the telethon was a part of our history, and an important part of the lives of at least three generations of kids. Jerry was an American icon and that telethon was an American institution and when we lost both, we lost something truly special, indeed.
|Jerry and the beloved Sammy Davis, Jr.|
Jerry may have said some controversial things over the years that had people wondering "WTF?" but he did a lot of good--a LOT--and to me, that's what matters. No one will ever do as much for kids as Jerry did for "his" kids. He gave his heart and soul to them for 59 years and I am forever grateful for that and for what he gave me--hope!
You know---when I was growing up, even though I did not have MD, I always felt like I was one of Jerry's kids. I guess I always will!