Jerry Lewis' annual Labor Day Telethon raised a record $47.1 million for the battle against muscular dystrophy as the host promised his nationwide audience that a cure is closer than ever.
The 29th annual MDA telethon, which ended Monday, surpassed last year's record take of $46 million.Corporate sponsors gave Lewis checks for $36.4 million atop TV viewers' $47.1 million for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
The telethon, which began Sunday night, was broadcast live from the Sahara Hotel and sites in New York, Hollywood and Branson, Mo.
Lewis, 68, kicked off the show by praising MDA researchers and saying scientists at MDA-funded clinics need more money to continue their work.
"They have the key to the lock," Lewis said.
But Marta Russell of Los Angeles, a spokeswoman for Americans Disabled for Attendant Programs, said the MDA has "failed to find anything close to a cure."
She led a two-hour demonstration Monday outside KTLA-TV in Los Angeles.
"Everyone should have what they need to function in society without this pity-mongering that Jerry Lewis perpetuates year after year," said Russell, who has cerebral palsy.
Lewis bristled at the suggestion he uses pity, saying the telethon showcases how people with muscular dystrophy can be productive citizens.
Longtime telethon figure Bob Sampson, who has had muscular dystrophy since he was 8, was honored by the International Association of Fire Fighters and United Airlines.
Utahns pledge plenty
Utah residents pledged $276,114 during Jerry Lewis' Labor Day Telethon, setting a record for the Beehive State.