Why disability-rights activists are furious about controversial MDA telethon returning after 6-year hiatus

By Beth Greenfield: For Entire Post, Go Here…

Once upon a time before the internet, telethons — marathon television fundraisers known for their endless lineup of performers and rows and rows of on-camera volunteers answering telephones to accept pledges from callers — were charity event staples. And none ran for longer than that of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), a 70-year-old nonprofit that aims “to free families from the life-threatening effects of muscular dystrophy and muscle-debilitating diseases.”

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Yahoo Life

Why disability-rights activists are furious about controversial MDA telethon returning after 6-year hiatus

Beth Greenfield·Senior EditorThu, October 22, 2020, 1:28 PM EDT·13 mins read

Once upon a time before the internet, telethons — marathon television fundraisers known for their endless lineup of performers and rows and rows of on-camera volunteers answering telephones to accept pledges from callers — were charity event staples. And none ran for longer than that of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), a 70-year-old nonprofit that aims “to free families from the life-threatening effects of muscular dystrophy and muscle-debilitating diseases.”

From 1966 to 2010, the MDA telethon ran in its original format — showcasing a slew of entertainers and children in wheelchairs and their parents for more than 21 hours each Labor Day weekend and famously hosted by Jerry Lewis, who would end each telethon by dramatically singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” But following a split between the host and the nonprofit, the event was shortened each year until, in 2015, it was canceled altogether.

Then came September 2020, when the organization announced a reboot of the event — called The MDA Kevin Hart Kids Telethon, to be hosted by the beleaguered comedian. It promises a slew of celebrity guest stars (including Common, Don Cheadle, Eva Longoria, Jack Black and Cindy Crawford), and will be streamed on YouTube on Oct. 24, falling within National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

And while word of the returning tradition may not have even registered for some, it was a painful trigger for many disability activists, who had long viewed the telethon as a “stigmatizing,” “heartless” “pity party.”

“I call it ‘pimped for profit,’” Dominick Evans, a disability-rights activist and former MDA “poster child,” tells Yahoo Life. “They use your body, your voice, your words to make money. … A lot of us feel it’s a fundraising machine.”

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