MDA Telethon Raises $61.5M Without Jerry Lewis

By Sara Dover
|  Monday, Sep 5, 2011  |  Updated 6:26 PM EDT
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The Muscular Dystrophy Association managed to do alright without Jerry Lewis, after all.

The nonprofit's annual Labor Day Telethon raised nearly $61.5 million in their first event without the comedian since 1966, USA Today reported-- its best showing since 2008. Last year, the MDA raised $58.9 million in the 21.5-hour telethon, Reuters reported.

While Lewis wasn't physically there, he was still the star of the show. Gigantic photos of Lewis served as a backdrop to a stage and four co-hosts thanked him for raising hundreds of millions of dollars for medical research in the past 45 years.

"It isn't possible, Jerry, to replace you, sir," said "American idol" executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, according to Reuters. "What you have done for this organization and its families is something close to a miracle. And I know that we all want to carry on its legacy."

Hosts Nancy O'Dell of "Entertainment Tonight," Alison Sweeney of "The Biggest Loser" and entertainment journalist Jann Carl also thanked Lewis for inspiring them to join the telethon.

Lewis' retirement from the telethon was announced without much explanation. In May, MDA officials said this year's event would be Jerry Lewis's last. Then in early August, the MDA said Lewis wasn't going to be returning to the Las Vegas-based telethon at all.

Selected Reading: USA Today, Reuters

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