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Labor Day Telethon sets a new fund-raising record

LOS ANGELES — The Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon to raise funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association received a record $60.5 million in nationwide pledges, a telethon spokeswoman said Monday.

The 77-year-old Lewis, his body bloated due to steroid medication he takes for pulmonary fibrosis, was assisted during the 21 1/2-hour fund-raiser by Ed McMahon and performances from a number of entertainers, including Cher, Celine Dion and Don Rickles.

"I'm consistently humbled by the generosity of the American public. Every year I ask, and without blinking, you open your hearts and wallets," Lewis said. "You've also let 'my kids' of all ages, and their loved ones, know that they aren't alone in this fight."

Originating from CBS Television City in Los Angeles, the telethon pledges received through Monday broke last year's record of $58.3 million, said telethon spokeswoman Carol Sowell.

The privately funded MDA works to combat more than 40 neuromuscular diseases through research, services to those afflicted, and professional and public health education.